wow pare, Anthology!
Prose & Poetry from the fellows of
51st Silliman University National Writers Workshop the
wo An w p th ar e ol , og y
phy by Arkay T imonera Illustr
Note from the Editor
An Exile Among My People
Thomas David Chavez
Impressions of Negros Oriental
Thomas David Chavez
Declassified: To Myself Before the Siliman Workshop
Death in Split-Screen
The Doves of Memory
Michelle T. Tan
About the Fellows Acknowledgements
Nathan Ming Kun Aw CD Borden
Vida Cruz Karlo David
Timothy James Dimacali Michael Aaron Gomez Hazel Meghan B. Hamile Deborah Rosalind D. Nieto Christian Tablazon
Editor’s Note “Wow, pare...” was coined by CD Borden in a joke told best by him regarding Tarzan sighting an elephant skateboarding down a slope and wearing shades while doing so. It quickly became the batch catchphrase; we uttered it as a group or individually every time someone made a comment of note during a session, every time something hilarious or odd or wondrous caught our attention. “Wow, pare...” may mean, for some of us, pleasant surprise at seeing a fictionist try their hand at poetry (TJ Dimacali) or nonfiction (Michelle Tan)— even a showcase of fluid bilinguality in writing (Christian Tablazon). To make light of the matter, it also comes to represent--side by side with our easiness with one another--how this anthology coming out nearly a year after we first met is a case of “better late than never.” (Cue sheepish laughter.) But in all seriousness, after a year of separation and missing one another and Dumaguete itself, we have come to find that we cannot be encapsulated by one phrase alone. During the few (oh, so few!) instances we have met in twos and threes and fours and even fives, some new ones arose. The following, I believe are the most prominent and prevalent: “May kuwento ako” and “kuwentohan mo ako,” usually accompanied by gossip and news and jokes and laughter and gasps and tight hugs and the unbearably swift passage of the hours. The anthology you are about to read is in one sense the sum of our attempts at catching up with one another. These are the 51sters telling,
retelling, and remembering stories a year after we first met--for this is what we do best and this was how we were bonded. Just as with one another, we will do our darnedest--whether in prose or poetry-to shock, to wrench your heart, to tickle a funny bone, and to make you think. So sit back and relax--
Kukuwentohan namin kayo. Istoryahan namo mo. Let us tell you our stories.
Grand Regal Hotel, Davao
An Exile Among My People Nathan Ming Kun Aw
An exile among people, Born, breed but never belong. Citizenship is some ink on a paper. Citizenship is some duties. Citizenship is a straitjacket. My earthly citizenship. Oh how I long for my citizenship in heaven!
December Night CD Borden
Out for a walk on a cold night Together with your soul mate Who doesnâ€™t notice you by her side And keeps her head slightly bowed. Like you she walks in gentle steps As if she too is enjoying the moment. You maintain after her steady pace Until she disappears into a dim-lit corner. Now alone on an empty street You can see the acacias And bright lights at the boulevard. You can feel the cool evening air kissing you.
Dwarf Thomas David Chavez As the ‘Greatest Tricks of the Monkey World’ and ‘The Creation’ started, we, four dwarves, trying to look human, would curtsy before the audience. Terry, Lucing, Benjie and I performed for Manolo’s Traveling Show along the AuroraIligan-Cagayan highway on a blue reconditioned 1971 Toyota pick-up truck and an improvised trailer for the properties. Manolo, who drove the truck and owned the circus, was a cheerful, if effeminate one-man show himself. However, eating fire and playing tricks with clever monkeys could be tiresome, so he hired Terry, then Lucing, and after that Benjie and me to balance the sexes out. Two male and two female dwarves put some kind of symmetry on stage. The highway was bordered by hill-and-bush towns with names like Margosatubig, Wa-o, Baliangao, and Initao, the latter a lair of aswangs and engkantos, or in elegant Cebuano translation, ‘beings not like us.’ But just like us the residents wanted relief from planting, mending fishnets, fashioning crab traps from bamboo and nito, which bulged and shrank like a balloon depending on the moisture, and foraging the hills for whatever could be sold in the poblacion. We were the darlings of the provincial crowd just before the monsoon came, and prayed only that no drunken Sunday night revelers would throw bottles at us or anywhere else. It was a year into Martial Law, 1973. People didn’t know what to do with the New Society, when everything was turned around and over. There was, of course, the notorious curfew which everyone in his right mind respected. There were new songs, new anthems in the radio that simply because of the frequency they played on air, everyone knew at heart and sang when they had nothing better to do. Yet, fear lurked in everyone’s hearts. The uncertainty was palpable. People disappeared. People were salvaged. Checkpoints suddenly spouted everywhere. Haughty soldiers became the new kings of the land. If our traveling show was popular, it was because people needed some kind of diversion, the certainty of
laughter, a few minutes of forgetfulness, a flight into fantasy. Who knew your next-door neighbor suddenly turned informer for the new dispensation? The women – Terry and Lucing – tended the fire, while Benjie and I cleaned up after. He and I also manned the gate and called out to passersby, Come – come – to – the – greatest – show – on – this – side – of – the – earth! Fire-eaters – monkey fuckers – and – dancing dwarves – see – them – all – and – have – the – time – of – your – life!. This was quite funny because Benjie and I alternated the words; Benjie’s voice was high falsetto, and mine a deep baritone. Our combined voices not only drew the crowds and made the children laugh and tug at their parents’ skirts and trousers, “Sige na, ‘tay, sige na, ‘nay.” ‘Monkey Fuckers’ was a nasty trick, and I was in charge of it. There were initially five baby macaques (no kith and kin, for they were bought from different places), easier for me since babies could be trained just like humans from Day One. We named them on their looks and personalities: Pikon, Kulit, Dalaga, Laswa, and Antok. The first three were males. Kulit, probably because he was the senior and the earliest acquisition, took on the leadership role. He had a funny way of stomping and retreating, and then baring his teeth and beating his chest any provocation from any of the four. Gradually he earned their respect. Curiously, Kulit never showed any interest in the females, except to lie on Laswa’s lap so she could pick his lice. Then, she would tickle him on the belly, which made him get up. He would flash a nasty grin and slowly recline once more before Laswa began to inspect his hair in earnest. While he began to drowse, Laswa would naughtily grab his genitals and turn away. Kulit would frown and tickle her awkwardly, then Laswa would shove his face away from her lap and jump up, making him temporarily dizzy from lack of oxygen. By the time he got up to chase Laswa, all the three other monkeys were screeching in laughter, trying to shoo Laswa away and make her run faster than she could. She would then flit inside the cage and lock herself in, which she had learned to do even at a young age. The monkeys made us laugh right from the start. They were our diversion. The audiences laughed at Manolo. Manolo laughed at us, we laughed at the monkeys, Kulit laughed at the four. It was the pecking order of the universe. Using bananas and melons, we were able to do our bidding. The first act was for Kulit to drive the red plastic firetruck, with Antok sitting behind, nursing a bottle of milk in baby diapers, and feigning sleep in between swigs of the bottle. Laswa and Dalaga walked abreast behind the truck, dragging a hula hoop between them that had a ball on the floor. Both macaques had a cudgel each, and they would try to swing the ball in and out of the hoop. Since Kulit had ambitions to drag-race, Laswa and Dalaga had to keep up. It was this part that made the women and girls among the
audience double up in hysterical laughter. The men and boys laughed at the next act. Once the monkeys had ambled about the stage in a complete circle, they would queue up and jump over the firetruck. Kulit used his bamboo stick like a pole vault. Laswa would beckon at his side, ring in hand, for the three others to pass through before jumping across the vehicle. All of them accomplished the feat quite spectacularly. Then as soon as this was finished, they would do another round and one by one, board the firetruck. Kulit, the driver, always acted surprise when Antok came from the back to stride over his head and sit on the hood. Laswa followed, jumping onto the truck and sitting behind Kulit. Dalaga then swooped over to sit behind them, facing back. Pikon, who the smallest, stole the act by screeching in from far out back, positioning himself on Dalaga’s shoulders, wobbling at first and finally standing up on her shoulders. Once stable on his feet, he bowed a few times, then began to survey the audience, raising his collar and nodded contentedly. This act broke the house down. When we packed our bags and props down in an open field in Initao, we were extra cautious of our movements and speech on account of rumor about the town’s witches. It was the 24th of August. Even though the rains had begun, the people would celebrate the Feast of Saint Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. We set up camp at the back of the church which faced Macajalar Bay. No sooner had we pitched our tents and sprang the scaffolding to construct a makeshift stage when the town’s chief of police came for a visit. He put his hand on his chin, nodding approvingly. Manolo was quicker to the draw and set the police chief aside. He asked the officer to sit inside the tent, offering him a cold soda. The officer said little, but Manolo knew why he came. The envelope was exchanged with an effusive handshake and the officer stood up to poke his nose around the tents. “Introduce to me your hands, so I’ll get a good look, for your own security, you know,” the officer remarked. Manolo showed him around and introduced everyone. “So there’s four dwarves, three runners, five monkeys, and you.” Manolo nodded. “We will, however, hire about eight to ten dancers from Iligan, cross-dressers - for the four days we’ll be here.” “Best to introduce them to me, too, when they’re here.” When Manolo and the officer unflapped the door to the smallest tent, they heard a shuffling sound in the darkness. “Holy smoke,” said the manager. Benjie pulled up his trousers and Lucing covered her face with a towel. She cried. Not wanting to make a fuss, the officer and him
exited fast and turned to walk toward the shore. “Fucking dwarves, I never thought my own people would fraternize.” “Can they make it? I mean, can they make babies like the rest of us?” “Remains to be seen. Officer, what do you think should I do with them, fire them?” “Your call, but I wouldn’t. If you’ve had them for a time now, I’d simply warn. Jobs are difficult here, aren’t they?” Manolo nodded a thoughtful look. Once the officer left, Lucing hurried to Manolo’s tent in a great show of tears. “Nyor Maning, please forgive us; it won’t happen again, please, please Nyor Maning, we didn’t harm anybody.” Manolo remained wordless. “Please, Nyor Maning, this is my only source of income, Benjie’s, too. Nobody will hire us for anything, as you know, Nyor Maning. Please, I’m begging you, please don’t fire us.” After a long pregnant pause, Manolo finally uttered a phrase: “No I won’t fire, but tonight, you and I and Benjie will confer in private, okay?” That night I made myself small and espied upon the tent. I hid under two clumps of palmera leaves. “Dwarves are not highly employable, are they?” Manolo began. I imagined the lovers nodding in unison. “I won’t fire you since you’ve proven to be able and loyal, but I must set one condition for your continued employment.” The tent was hushed. Nobody said a word for one full minute. “What condition would that be, Nyor Maning?” Benjie asked. Manolo looked at him. “Nothing daunting, nothing impossible.” He waited for a moment’s pause. “The condition that I set for you is this.” Just then a torrent of monsoon rain fell from the heavens and drenched the whole camp and the sleepy town beyond. The sound was deafening and violent. I could no longer hear anything from inside the tent.
The next morning we readied for the show which was scheduled to start at three. But the mud was intractable. We cleaned up the premises until just before lunch. The costumes were damp and Lucing set an electric fan before the clothes line. On the other side, Benjie was following the line up with a hair dryer. I bathed the monkeys, towel-dried them, and used a hair dryer on them as well. The whir and the heat made them antsy. But it was important to keep them dry as bone, because water interfered with their sense of smell and hearing. They needed to be sharp for the show. In spite of the boomer we employed to attract attention, the audience was tepid. But it was only the first day. Traveling circuses are true bandwagons; their fame gets spread through word-of-mouth. But the first day’s performance was always critical. On the third, the place was packed, and on the fourth, the crowd dwindled. Wherever we went, we were always worried about the Monkey Fuckers’ act. We were not worried about the animal rights people. Small townspeople didn’t care about mistreatment of animals. We worried more if a parish priest or a nun or a CWL member happened to be in the audience, as we experienced in Margosatubig. We had to scurry out of town. The Monkey Fuckers’ act was quite simple. I had trained the males to pounce on the female from the back, but this was a fleeting moment. The males hit the target right away and quickly pulled away. We trained the females to screech at that point. I know about monkeys now. I have worked years with them. Macaques, like many mammals, have a rutting season. They are not like humans who can copulate anytime. Yet, even out of that season, they frequently play among themselves. However, these are not purely sexual acts in our sense of the word. They do it more often to strengthen communal ties, like cuddling among humans. While thrusting and inserting, the males do not ejaculate. This behavior is especially true among captives who begin to form a bond among themselves. Even the males do it among themselves. That is why Kulit was so unusual. As the leader of the monkey gang, he was supposed to use his brawn in seeking sexual favors. He was supposed to impose himself on Pikon and Dalaga as a way to show his mastery over the females and the other lesser males. But he didn’t. Antok and Laswa were supposed to rub their reddening behinds on certain tree trunks while in heat as a way to entice the males. However, only Antok displayed this behavior. But hers was a weak interpretation of monkey lust. She only licked a finger after pressing it between her thing. Neither Antok nor Laswa showed any hint of sexual desire. I was
beginning to think that our group of monkeys was spayed or gelded from the day we got them. Perhaps there is something about captivity that rendered them without desire. This was good and bad for me at the same time. That was good because neutered animals behaved and ate less, or required less fat for survival. They had more energy for other things, more active in play and grooming. This was bad, however, because we needed the primal instinct of sex for our own show. There was something about sex in animals that stirred men’s minds. Was it their own lust? Was it fantasy? Whatever it was, it was something dark and forbidden. It was unspeakable. Yet, like anything forbidden, men would become more curious and think dark thoughts. Because the monkeys were uninterested in sex, I had to think of ways to make them do it onstage. It was hard. They needed a ‘carrot’ to dangle before their eyes. By trial and error, I discovered the secrets: fried chicken, alcohol, and bananas. The alcohol was given after the show, since the monkeys had to perform with their senses intact. Since the males had to put on an erection first, they were first shown a saucer of chicken wings. Only when they began to eat did they follow my instruction to play with their penis. This was the most obscene part of the show, not the mating itself. The audience roared, especially as the monkeys finished the last of their chicken wings, their fingers oily, rubbing the thing between their legs, licking their fingers to eat some more. People booed. People whistled. The monkeys were getting into act, knowing that after the show, they’d be given cold beer from their nursing bottles. Once they had it stiff, I trained them to pounce on the females from the back. But even for that, the act was quick and mechanical. Mahilas, mahilas, they shouted. Obscene, obscene, but more, more! Then the lights were suddenly switched off for the transvestite’s dramatic entry onstage. After the first night’s show, Manolo would usually treat us out for barbecue and one case of Grande. He was not willing to go beyond, for hangovers terribly dulled our act. But we were tipsy enough when we returned to the tents. That night, however, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned in my bed until I noticed that Benjie was not actually on his cot. I shared the tent with him. It must have been half past two. My curiosity piqued, I got up from bed and smelled my way around the tents. Even in my stature (or the lack of it), I had to keep myself small. When I reached Manolo’s tent, I heard a curious mixture of pants and groans from within. Certainly, Manolo was not alone? There were several voices.
Finding myself more curious, I got a safety pin from my breast pocket and bore a hole about a foot from the bottom across an angle from his cot. What I saw was awful: Benjie and Lucing were doing it for Manolo’s sake! His own private show. The boss, who was sitting on a white vinyl chair at a distance, was playing with himself. Just like my monkeys. I hurried back to my tent and decided to feign sleep. I heard Benjie flap the tent and come in. He was whistling softly so as not to disturb me. Just as he positioned himself in the cot, I turned my lighter on and said, “Grand night it was, hey, Benjie?” He sat upright on his bed, “The barbecue was great.” “Uh-oh, great barbecue, great beer, great sex?” “None of your business, Antonio.” “Not mine, certainly, not Boss Manolo’s either?” “What do you mean by that, Tony?” “Oh, no nothing. Just that a little bird in my sleep whispered into my small ears.” “Damn it, Tony, what are you talking about?” “Come on, come on, Benjie, I’m not talking about anything. Maybe I’m just jealous.” Benjie and I had stopped talking then, except for our memorized scripts at the start of the show. Even when we left Initao on the way to the next fiesta in Iligan (Saint Michael’s, the dragon slayer), we did not talk. The boss noticed and called us together. “Something wrong between the two of you, little guys?” Nobody spoke. “My interest is your interest, you know, my happiness, yours too. And so is my sadness. What I’m telling you is that we’re all in this together and we can’t have two bickering clowns under our tents without, without affecting the show altogether.”
Still nobody spoke. “It’s him, Nyor Maning, it’s Antonio,” Benjie said. “What is it, Tony? Do I assume a little bit of, uh, jealousy? You know, I understand that, but Tony…hey, there’s always Terry, isn’t there?” He looked at Benjie, and then at me. “Nyor Maning, I’m sorry. She’s a wonderful person, Terry is. But, but she’s not exactly my type.” “Come on, come on now, Tony, we’re left without so much as a wide berth, aren’t we?” “Uhm, dwarves, dwarf women, uh, are not my thing, Nyor Maning. Please don’t get me wrong, but uhm, I prefer normal girls.” Benjie stifled a laugh. But Nyor Maning couldn’t help it. He tried to save himself by adding, “Let’s see what I can do.” I spiralled down into deep depression. The fiesta of Iligan was still three weeks away, so we headed for a mountain district of the city that was full of tiny boxes, houses indistinguishable from the one another. Workers of the city’s steel works, cement and flour factories lived there. The residents were our kind of audience – with some disposable income, needing a temporary diversion from the drudgery of assembly-line work, and above all, a quiet but desperate need for bawdy entertainment. But for entertainment, they wanted something decent. It was as if, having gotten some money now, they still belonged to a civilized world. No, they weren’t farmers, or fishermen, or tricycle drivers. They were better than them, and they wanted their entertainment within bounds. All this time, Terry the cook, came to me more frequently. She gave me extra food after lunch and dinner. She began asking me questions about the training of the monkeys and the acts we had to perform. Since she was just a side performer, she felt that she could do more, learn a few more tricks so that Nyor Maning could give her more important tasks onstage. “You’re already a good cook and an efficient manager of the props, Terry,” I said.
“But I think I can contribute more for the show, like being a clown in one section.” “For that, we will have to ask the boss.” “Like I could become a lead dancer for the monkey dancing act. You could train me, Tony, because the boss has faith in you. And what’s more, I like you the best among our colleagues here.” “Thank you, Terry, I do think that Nyor Maning thinks of you highly as it is already. Why look for more work when you have more than enough in the kitchen, the marketing, and the props?” As soon as we set up camp, there were already queues ten minutes long. We streamlined our act and tightened the show. We began with the dancing transvestites. At the start, they flailed their arms and kicked their heels like in Moulin Rouge. They strutted about and danced in three changes of costumes, all the while gyrating their hips and pouting their mouths lasciviously. In their final scene, the sensual airs of ‘Summertime’ were looped round and round on the turntable and the ‘ladies’ began to strip. Most of them had silicone. The menfolk hissed, the women screamed. The children laughed until they burst at the seams. At eleven that night, when we were busy tidying up for the next day, Manolo summoned me to his tent. “How true is this news that you sneaked up on me in our last night at Initao?” His tone showed no trace of emotion. “Not true, Nyor Maning, I deny it.” “That you hid under a pile of palmera leaves and espied on us?” he asked calmly. “I deny it, ‘Nyor Maning, that’s an absurd lie.” “That you bored a hole on my tent with a pin or tack and peeped in?” Manolo’s voice began to edge. “I don’t know anything about this affair, Nyor Maning. For the love of God, I swear, you must believe me!” “Roberto, come on in.” The water boy came in.
“Now, Roberto, tell me what you saw that night.” Roberto told, and I began to cry. “Please, Nyor Maning, I didn’t mean to. Please forgive me. I didn’t see anything at all.” “Roberto, you are dismissed.” As soon as he spoke those words, he unbuckled his belt, took it off and curled it in his hand. Then he slashed at my face once. The force was so heavy that I stumbled and fell. I cried a piercing yell. “Now, get up Antonio and learn your lesson well. I forgive you and you must not do anything like that again, or else you will have to go.” I began to hatch a plan of escape. I planned revenge. The monkeys, I’d do something about the monkeys. Should I set them free as soon as I fled? Set fire upon the camp? Report to the authorities the cruel and illegal acts of Manolo? Squeal to the priest the horror our very public show? Let the animal rights NGOs in on our depravity towards the animals? Or perhaps cry in city hall regarding Manolo’s illegal profits and unpaid back taxes? My mind was quick with the possibilities of humiliation. I imagined Manolo’s eventual downfall. Terry came to see me a few times during my depression. She gave me cold drinks for lunch or a glass of warm milk to help me to sleep at night. She said she was concerned about the mood swings I recently had. She seemed almost like a mother to me, asking me questions and giving me advice, although I did not ask for it. All this time, I didn’t feel like answering her. I kept quiet about the dark thoughts I had in mind. Although Terry was nice enough, I felt I could trust no one in the circus. Yet the following day, my resolve began to waver. My vindictiveness was a mallet on the kneebone. My plan dithered as I thought about the days we all had spent together, the camaraderie we fostered. Our performances were no labors at all, and yet they were our bread and butter, our rice and fish. Where could one gain employment in a state such as mine? Surely the streets were a worse alternative if I had to scrounge around with a bowl in hand, or say bark at people to sell lottery tickets, or ferry them in to jeepneys at the market, push a cariton to collect bottles and newspapers.
I resolved to swing around, a complete turnaround of 360 degrees. I’d strive to be a better performer, a funnier actor. I thought about the monkeys again. Perhaps I could teach them new tricks, make them act out more intriguing sequences of performance. It dawned on me that if monkeys could ape humans to a fault, then they could be taught pantomime. If my monkeys were still teenagers in the reckoning of monkey age, then there certainly was ample time for them to acquire fresh habits. In no time at all, I’d be in the good graces of Manolo once more. The art of the mime is based on an elegantly simple idea: we mimic each other. We don’t think about it, but it’s like breathing, walking, sleeping; in other words, second nature to us. Say scratch a nose and soon enough, your partner in will brush his or her nose unconsciously. Brush a lint on your lap and in a second, he will also look at his trousers and scratch a bit of it. Swivel your neck up and around as if to catch a fresh breath of air, tired of being in the same position for so long; in a moment, your partner will stretch his arms and wiggle his arms to exercise. I once saw Antok steal a stick of cigarette from Manolo’s pack and put it in his mouth. In perfect imitation of our master, he sat down on a chair, crossed a leg, tilted his head, and blew an imagined puff of smoke. Antok also then ‘took a cup of coffee’ from the table and then began to sip it in between puffs of cigarette. It was hilarious. We could imagine Manolo in him. Then he felt drowsy, closed his eyes and bowed his head instinctively. How Antok captured every bit of Manolo is beyond me. Mimicking others might be part of our heritage, whether we are monkeys or humans. I thought about our mime show in three acts: a clown eating a banana (simple), a woman undressing and then taking a shower (a tough act to follow) and a Narcissus preening, combing his hair, looking at the mirror (a basin on his side), patting his cheeks and straightening his collar (the toughest act of all.) Antok was a shoo-in for the Narcissus, Laswa for the woman, and Pikon for the clown. It turned out not as simple as I thought. The three monkeys preferred different ‘carrots.’ Laswa was a big fan of banana cake (the cheaper and sweeter it was, the better). Antok fell for a bottle of San Miguel light (and no other brand), while Pikon lusted after lechon kawali swimming in Mang Tomas liver sauce with lots of pounded garlic. The three also had variable degrees of trainability. Pikon had a mayfly life’s attention span. Antok was a slowpoke, while Laswa needed a lot of approval and applause. Her idea of applause was for me to tap the table several times and she would flash a monkey smile at me. Then she would pick up from where she left off.
The costumes also bothered them from the start, so we had to perform ‘naked’. It hit me much later that performing without a costume was the best deal there was, since it was more imaginative and playful. Imagine Laswa unbuttoning her skirt slowly and brushing her hair without a comb. I could not help, however, to spice the acts with slivers of innuendo – a little parting of the ‘lower lips,’ a bit of scratching of the scrotal sac, a slight shivering of the body while fondling the nipples. The audiences loved it. Manolo loved me. On the second to the last evening in Iligan city, Manolo accompanied all of us to dine with an old relative of his, a son of whom happened to be one of our cross-dressing dancers. The cross-dresser’s name was Rihanna, a stage name obviously. Except for an unnoticeable trace of an Adam’s apple, Rihanna was almost like a woman. She had a full cleavage. Her hair fell lustrously on the side by her left shoulder. And since she was dressed in a tight white pantsuit, I could not help but notice her charms throughout the evening. I must have caught more than sweeping glances at her that dinner because when we went back to the camp, Manolo asked me to join him again in his tent. “So you fell for my niece, hey Tony?” “She’s a pretty girl, I admit, Nyor Maning, almost like the true package.” “The true package she is. Now, would you like me to set up a date for you with her? A reward for your creativity, Antonio.” “If it’s not too much to ask, Nyor Maning.” “Done, then.” The next evening was our last in Iligan; I was not hopeful of anything. Rihanna had not performed that night and I reasoned that because she was a native Iligueña, she would be busy socially among her friends and relatives, fulfilling fiesta obligations. But at around midnight, Roberto the waterboy came to my tent and asked me to go over to Nyor Maning’s. When I came in, I was surprised to see Rihanna sitting by her uncle’s side. My heart began to pound. She was dressed in a purple gown with a plunging neckline. I grew uneasy. I had never made it with a woman before. And not in my wildest dreams would I stand a chance with a normal adult, although Rihanna was my
boss’s old nephew formerly named Oscar. It didn’t matter now really. Rihanna was a ravishing creature. I felt a stirring on the seat of my jeans. “So, Rihanna, this is my cutest performer Antonio, a hardworking one, and quite some talent, too. Don’t you think he can make it to Hollywood if he tried?” Rihanna smiled, but she didn’t laugh. “Nice to meet you, Antonio, so now we’re formally introduced, hey?” There was a silence between us. Then she said, “Perhaps you’ll take me out on a movie date?” I didn’t say anything, but the question filled me with desire. I was fully aware that Rihanna was twice my size. Was she just teasing me? “You are beautiful, Rihanna, truly, you could have become Miss Iligan.” Nyor Maning laughed. She smiled demurely. Then my boss stood up and said, “Now I’ll leave you two for a while and get a few drinks. I’m parched from all the day’s events. Say, a couple of hours is enough?” I didn’t know what to say. My hands were beginning to sweat. “Come, Tony, come over to my side and let’s see what the evening has in store for us.” I admit it was my first time to do it. I was clumsy. But my worries were unfounded. Rihanna ministered over the whole proceeding, which was good because I didn’t have to feel I was only half in stature. I just lay there, gasping and moaning. I even came twice. Like she understood me, Rihanna stayed on top all the time, deliberate in her movements, determined to give me the time of my life. I felt like new man. I felt the stature of a fully-grown man. I felt whole. I felt complete, until it was all over. When Nyor Maning came back at around two, I was exhausted. I was drained of all energy, but felt I was on top of the world. Now I knew what love was. When we packed our bags to travel the three hours to Tuburan, our next destination, I was tempted to stay behind. But Nyor Maning read my mind. “There are some things that are never meant to be, Tony.”
My boss looked down. “Consider, however, your memory with Rihanna a treasure to keep. I do not promise anything, but I have invited her to visit some time.” “Is it this, then, love gained and love lost all too soon?” “I’m afraid that was it, Tony.” He said those words with a father’s understanding. My heart sank. He looked at me with pity. “It wasn’t love, Tony. It was lust.” What is it to be a man? What does it mean to be full and whole? Is it like the old legend that until one has found his mate, one will never be complete? That it takes a woman to round off a man and make him whole? That everything else – wealth, property, looks, even physical stature – is a sham? These thoughts haunted me through the length of my days and the loneliness of my evenings. Arriving in Tuburan, Nyor Maning asked us to inventory our props and belongings. He promised to give us our salary in the afternoon. No sooner had we finished our task when Roel, one of the show’s runners, came with the news that Laswa was nowhere to be found. We began to look everywhere. She was a critical presence in the monkey act. But there was no Laswa. Nyor Maning called Iligan and finally connected with the police of Quezon district in Iligan where we had come from. A ten-thousand peso reward was posted in city’s streets. But even after two weeks, Laswa did not appear. We finally gave up on her. Nyor Maning gave me the task of finding two or three suitable replacements for the macaques. Because the Tuburan showdates were still two weeks and a half away, he gave me four days off to scout the markets along the coastal crab-fishing towns of Panguil Bay. In truth, I took the bus to Ozamis where there was a huge pet market. I found four baby macaques and returned to the camp triumphant. We named the new babies human names. There was Aldo, because he looked like an Italian mafia gangster. There were Macoy (whose eyes resembled the former dictator’s) and Brad Pitt, because he was fresh and clean-looking. And of course, there was Rihanna. All of the new babies, however, were female. I explained to Nyor Maning that female monkeys were easier and sooner trained
and were considerably more peaceable than the males. But two and a half weeks was not enough time for training. I needed two full months. Nyor Maning, however, didn’t pressure me. He took all of my advice on monkey training. We reckoned that the babies were ‘children’ of the primary grades in human terms. For young macaques, a mother figure was important and since I was the trainer, I was appointed to be the official ‘mother.’ Mothering needs are most marked among baby monkeys. They need a lot of cuddling and assuring. Their feeding times have to be regular, just like human babies. They also associate certain things with ‘caring’ like soft blankets, warm nipples, a furry patch of coat. A mother’s grooming is also important because the sense of touch not only warms them all around, but also makes them fall asleep. Most importantly, however, is their acute sense of smell. Baby monkeys think of ‘mother’ because of the particular smell she gives off. In my own case, it is the shirts that I wore. When any of the babies fall ill, I must be there at their side to give them comfort. Even if I must leave for a few minutes to answer the call of nature, I must leave behind a ‘blanket’ of a used shirt. When the babies grow a little older, the need for play with others becomes more important The play is not only social, but has also something to do with the sense of touch and physical movement. They begin to develop the sense of their own bodies, experiment with clasping and grabbing and eating food for themselves, flipping and unflipping their tails on various objects. They develop a sense of balance and agility. Above all, it is a very curious age, the age when training ‘stands’ the best chance. I think this also happens among our babies or toddlers. Monkeys, by the way, never really ‘stand.’ When they attempt to upright themselves, it signals worry, fear, or concern. ‘Standing up’ and looking around means they sense a certain danger. And just like humans, monkeys seek the comfort of regularity. They dislike unexpected surprises. It became apparent to me that Brad Pitt was the fastest learner, Aldo the dunce. Macoy and Rihanna were somewhere in between. It also became clear that all the four were fisheaters. Aldo and Brad Pitt loved deep-fried snapper or galunggong, the kind that has been low-fired to a crackling crispiness. Macoy and Rihanna had a more expensive taste – grilled kitong or speckled stonefish with a sauce of vinegar and garlic. The whole of the three bays of north central Mindanao, however, was fishing country (except in the winter months, the spawning season, when the fishing was banned and the government implemented it rather strictly).
Terry, the marketing dwarf, began to complain about the fastidiousness and expense of their diet. When she came to me, she always wore a frown. We really have no choice, I explained. The monkeys rake in pure revenue for us, I added. She just shrugged. She said I was pampering the babies like they were mine, that they were like human babies, my babies, hinting that my solicitousness was a displacement of my frustrated love. How could I love somebody ‘other’? ‘Other,’ was of course, fully-statured human beings. Was I not too big for my breeches? And worse, was not the woman only posing as one, because, when it came down to it, Rihanna had the same ‘hook’ down there, pretty much like mine? I kept mum at her accusations. I felt that she was just being jealous. Terry never had a love in her life. A few times in the past, I felt that she looked at me with desire in her eyes. Her words were daring. “Go Mariang Palad, Antonio, are you not man enough? Why settle for a halfwoman? For sure, there are many women out there?” That was my last straw. I shook her heavily on the shoulder. I wanted to do something more violent, but since she was a woman, my sense of chivalry prevailed. “Look, Terry, my love life is my own affair, and you have absolutely nothing to do with it.” I saw that she was beginning to cry, but I was adamant. “Look, Terry, I know you are lonely yourself, but you don’t have to drag everybody down with your depression.” Then she straightened up and wiped the tears with her own hand and began to speak. “Look, Tony, everyone’s a pervert in this show. Can’t you see? This is all a bestiary! Benjie makes it out with Lucing every Friday evening before the boss’s eyes and then he plays with himself. The water boy Roberto, in case you didn’t know, gets to screw Antok and before she left, Laswa as well.” I was horrified.
Terry suddenly stopped crying. She wiped her tears with the left sleeve of her blouse. Then she looked at me straight in the eye, coming several paces toward where I was sitting. Her voice was distinctly calm. “Tony, you and I are the last decent ones in the circus. Our lives as dwarves aren’t exactly the most fulfilling - with all our problems, you know, not belonging anywhere. But at least we are alive. Come to think about it - you and I understand each other, Tony.” Terry stepped closer. I could smell the distinct ammonia of her breath. Her breathing turned slow and heavy. Closing her eyes, she moved her face toward mine and began to unbutton her blouse. I resisted at first, but then she began to work the buttons of my shirt as well. I began to heave. Still, I could not find myself learning to love Terry. We did it all right, but it was not right for me at all. I lit up a cigarette and confronted her. “Roberto…tell me about what you know about Roberto, Terry.” She wiped a few tears away with an exhausted hand and then looked up. “You mean his doing it with the animals? That’s been going on quite some time now. I…I was wondering why you hadn’t known all along.” “I could kill the guy.” “Are you all right, Tony? I mean they’re just beasts after all.” “You call them beasts, Terry, but I call them my babies. I took care of them, fed them, bathed them. Taught them a few tricks to survive. And they hadn’t known any other ‘mother’ but me.” “Oh, Tony, you’re being overly sentimental.” I felt blood rushing up my neck. Counting silently to ten, I spoke in a calm voice, “You don’t understand, Terry.” She primped her clothes and stood to rise. Daggers were in her eyes.
“Beasts, Tony, they all are. Beasts, dwarves, they’re all the same.” I was too tired at Terry’s accusations. I looked at her before she left. Suddenly surprising myself, I drew near hear and opened my arms to signal an embrace. To my next surprise, she came closer and clasped her arms around me. We just stood there as if frozen by the minutes that swept us by. “Come, Tony, the monkeys must be hungry.” She led me to the pantry and tinkered with a few nursing bottles. She heated the formula for four bottles and gave me two. Reaching for the cages, she called the monkeys by name, “Aldo? Aldo? Macoy, wake up!” I looked at them. They were the loveliest creatures in the world. Tears welled up in my eyes. I handed one bottle to Brad Pitt, the handsome macaque. I called on Rihanna and gave her a warm bottle. I swear she smiled back at me.
Impressions of Negros Oriental Thomas David Chavez The ride was slow, nearly ceremonial. From historic Katipunan Hall on campus to Camp Lookout in Bongbong, Valencia we took the 1931 Silliman vintage bus to the foothills of Mount Talinis, taking the hairpin swerves in great stride. We, the eleven fellows of the 51st National Writers Workshop, were awed in silence at the sight of the lordly trees, the sweep of water, island, mountain and jungle that was to be our home. Because many of us came from the sweltering summer heat of Manila, the mountain breeze awakened our senses, making us itch to dip our quills in inspiration. We met many people, firsthand and told, great characters who would mostly likely populate the pages of our fiction and poetry one day. There was Kuya Mo, inimitable, irrepressible, who let us in on the secrets of Sillimanâ€™s past and present, simultaneously regaling us with tales of his loves, both unreturned and consummated. There was Manang Bibi (where in the world would you meet a person with such a name?) who solicitously acted in loco parentis, peeking into our cottages long after our sessions were over, just to make sure everything was all right with us. There were our neighbors, a family of whom would exact revenge on our rowdiness by turning up their boomer with Guns and Roses so we could not begin our session on time. One of those neighbors was a retired pediatrician who built a splendid jungle home, and where we would hold one session, serving us the most delectable ube ensaymada we ever tasted. For company, Dr. Garcia kept a coterie of dogs that greeted us with the most ferocious howls until the top dog told his fellows to beat it. Dr. Garcia said he was the dog whisperer in the retinue, who mediated between the canine world and the world at large. The old doctor sported a silver Twiggy mane on top of which she placed a frilly Victorian bonnet.
There was the old caretaker, long passed, but who continued to haunt the cachubong-clad hills of the Writers’ Village. He found meaning in serving an odd string of missionary couples stationed in Dumaguete before and after the Japanese war. His last masters, a German anthroplogist and his wife, left upon accomplishing their mission. The old caretaker promptly took his own life, hanging himself on a tree, the keys to the estate hanging by his belt. In his 60s, he felt his mission was accomplished, too. There were of course Edilberto and Edith, who founded the workshop in 1962, bringing with them the ideas of Iowa. While we were too young and too late to have met them, we encountered them in high school and university just the same where their works were de rigueur in Philippine textbook anthologies of literature. And of course, we were directed by the daughter, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas who taught us equally well, if not more humanely and passionately than we could have imagined. In her critical evaluation of our drafts, she opted for the positive sweep of perspective, injecting the literary possibilities of the piece, looking for latent angles that waited polishing here and tweaking there. She could be straightforward when she wanted to, coaxing hesitant writing into fleshed out resolute pieces. The fellows sat up. There were the other panelists, beginning with Bobby Villasis who looked into every nook and cranny of our poems, essays and fiction. He left no stone unturned, he who had a thing for fathers, sons, and and their brood. Susan Lara always looked refreshed and invigorated throughout the day, which was good for all of us. That meant her feedback always struck a positive note. An exhausted panelist meant a grumpy critique. There was Sawi Aquino, who saw the world and our work with fresh eyes. He recently recovered from an eye operation. There was Danny Reyes, who reminded me of my uncle the Archbishop of Malaybalay not only in the way he looked but also in his subtle literary epistles which were delivered ex-cathedra after all. I told Danny he was almost Jesuit. The Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai read her poetry with true feeling and when she left and bade us goodbye, she shed a tear on the red anthurium she spirited away from the camp’s garden. Jimmy Abad, of course, was somebody else. More gentle that we had expected, he bequeathed us with the gem that our craft is the gift of language, our most precious resource, and the only thing we have. He brooked no dissent on “vernacular” for he said that bonded us to mere alipinry, the namamahay kind. Jimmy had a way with his hands and eyes – expansive, sweeping, and at the same time, genial and fatherly. His hands were Christ the Redeemer’s on the Rio de Janeiro mountaintop, but at least Jimmy smiled for the effort. The patrician Krip Yuson, Mom Edith’s true son, crimped his ashen beard at every thoughtful word
he shared. Grandiloquent in expression and magnanimous in praise, he couldnâ€™t, however, betray the predilection for realist fiction, convinced as he was that we had the language at our command. There were of course the eleven fellows. But they deserve another page or two.
Dumaguete Suite After Wang Wei
For the Frightened Girl Crying Three Days Before Her Dumaguete Flight
Dry your tears. In three weeks these will returnâ€” Fattened by white mist over the trees, salt on the wind, Friends bathed in the Boulevard sunrise, and this fact: You can bring them home with you only in your heart.
Snapshot of That Sunday Night
My camera perched like a lonely bird on a stump of coconut Preening silver plumage beneath the mid-year moon For hours before we three found it. It meant us to find each other in the dark, too. During the Blackout in Siquijor
Unwitting, the fellows danced a poem. Their laughter tolled the stars like bells And their bodies trailed ripples in brine Bright with moonlight and algae.
To the Fellows of the 52nd SUNWW
You dozen driving down the mountain How does the Village fare? Have the katsubong let down their pink skirts By the green windows of its namesake?
Declassified: To Myself Before the Siliman Workshop Karlo David Leave your emotional baggage in Davao. The Silliman experience will teach you to see people and things, including yourself, at a removed distance. Crying all over Valencia and Dumaguete will only distract you from gaining this wisdom. Akiko Shikata will be your main soundtrack for the workshop, which is magical. But listen to more songs, no song is beautiful enough not to get old by constant playing. Do NOT get out of Mactan International Airport’s premises when you arrive; you will have to wait until 4am if you do. The chat with the guard will be pleasant, but standing for hours will not be comfortable. You will be met in the Sibulan airport by a foreigner, Professor Phillip Van Peel, who will drive you to the university. Watch out, he can speak Bisaya. In spite of all the glitz surrounding the workshop, very few people in Silliman actually know about it. Heck, even the dorm manager doesn’t know of it, and you will have on your hands the awkward task of introducing the workshop to a member of the Silliman faculty. Resist being a bitch. No, that blue house beside Carson Hall wasn’t Leoncio Deriada’s home. But go ahead, take a picture. It’s even more special: it’s the End House, once home to the polymath Albert Faurot and center of artistic activity in the glory days of Silliman. Ma’am Marjorie Evasco was there when she was still a Sillimanian.
Eat your first brunch in Dumaguete at the Cafeteria! Their humba is divine, and you will probably be asking the workshop cooking staff to make it for you. Before you go to Dumaguete, try to find the ‘boulevard stories’ of Bobby Villasis. It will be ridiculously difficult, but try. If you read them before coming to Dumaguete, you would drool in haciendero-fanboy delight once you arrive at the Boulevard. Silliman Hall is at the northern end of the Boulevard. Dumaguete is a city of beautiful alignments. The bell tower is beside the cathedral, which is inside coming from the Boulevard. Climb it, you actually can. Do not be afraid of possibilities. Relax, TJ will be nice. You wouldn’t be admitted to the workshop if you were stupid, so don’t be intimidated by his intelligence. Conversation with him will be fun in an erudite way. Bodbod and sikwate are sold at the painitan, which is behind the cathedral. Also try the putomaya. Sans Rival is just a small distance from the Boulevard, but it won’t be open until 8am. Explore, idiot! Your first textual lesson in Silliman: the form must be considered in trying to convey meaning. For example: when Mich texts you that she’s in Katipunan Hall, do not just reply “wait.” You will mean it as haste on your part, but she will think you are angry, or suplado. A year after your Iyas fellowship together, you will have forgotten Mich’s face. But you have no doubt she has grown prettier since then and has warmed up to you considerably. Be prepared for her randomly calling your name. The pleasure with first impressions, it seems, is when they are proven to be wrong. The pleasure with first impressions, it seems, is when they are proven to be wrong. No, Debbie is not a snobbish socialite; she will expand your vocabulary in gay lingo. No, Nathan is not a Filipino; talk to him in English. Yes, Christian is an intellectual; but he won’t bite. Nobody ever
became a monster with too much erudition. Look behind you! It’s Meghan, newly-arrived from a detour to Bohol via fastcraft and still perky! Yes, CD is a fellow; don’t be deceived by the rugged look. Enjoy surprising him when you answer his Tagalog question with Bisaya! No, Thomas is not an aloof lolo; he will be approachable. And Vida isn’t a snobbish socialite either. Sorry, Ma’am Alana is married. Be prepared for Kuya Moe’s insinuations that you are a closeted gay. But don’t worry, he only means well and he has a very big heart. The trip from Katipunan Hall to the Writers Village will take hours. Don’t worry, conversation with Mich and the others will make the journey seem very short. Go ahead, make parallels between the Silliman bus and the Iyas bus. The fragrant flower in Balay Magnolia is the gardenia, not the magnolia. But what’s in a name? A magnolia by any other name would smell as sweet. Do not sleep agad on the first night at the Village! You will be the laughingstock of the batch for the duration of the workshop for missing out on the first night drinking session. Research about the panelists before the workshop. You have no idea how big some of them are in Philippine Letters. Go to a coffee shop with Ma’am Sue. Drink with Sir Bobby. Reminisce on your Iyas workshop with Sir DM. But don’t worry if you don’t get to bond with them, there will still be life after the workshop. Grovel at the feet of Bobby Villasis, you ungrateful wretch. You owe your place in the workshop to him. Pay tribute to him by offering him some pandan-flavored food. He likes that. Don’t make pasagad with Sir Sawi. He looks like your typical angkol at the nearest kanto, but this is the great Cesar Aquino you are dealing with. And he rarely even lends his books, so be profusely thankful for the copy of Thornton Wilder’s plays and be on guard for puns.
Go ahead, get lost and discover the spectacular view of Mt. Talinis up ahead of the Writers Village. Ask Mom Weena where the path to their cottage up the mountain is. That plant growing near the main hall’s kitchen is dill; sprinkle some on your food. Be sharp. Scan for toads in the vicinity. As part of her crusade to conquer everything she has yet to experience, Mich will ask you to go toad catching later. You will have a hard time looking for one. Try near the banana trees behind Balay Magnolia. You will need Christian’s animal-whispering powers to find one. The big leafed tree is the bread fruit while the tree with the small leaves is the langka. None of them is the marang, idiot. Don’t go teaching Mich the wrong names; you’ll embarrass yourself in front of Meghan. Memorize more poems! Your repertoire is too small. Go to Forest Camp. Go to Casaroro Falls. Go to Lake Balanan. Go to the Hot springs of Dauin. Go to Apo Island. On your first weekend go somewhere! Don’t bother ordering at Café Noriter. And don’t heed some stupid advice that you ought not to go to a beach because Antulang will be the third week’s out-session. The experience of each place is unique and incomparable. Be friends with Danna Didal. She will be a bit melancholic for being unable to see the auditor Gio her boyfriend for a week, but she makes a lovely amiga. And don’t make pasagad with the auditor Arkay Timonera either. He will quote Leoncio Deriada at you. Do not underestimate the literary merits of Pepsi Paloma’s suicide letter. CD’s imagination is more culturally subversive than Andy Warhol. It’s called the sawali. Mich will not be the only one to learn the names of things. Do not be deceived by the apparent barrenness of the Manjuyod sandbar. Look closer, you will find the biggest starfish you will ever see. Good things come to those who seek without hope of finding.
No, don’t succumb to the temptations of the sugarcane spirit and other intoxications. Nothing good will come out of that. If there’s anything magical about Siquijor, it’s the view. White sand beaches and old churches: the contrast will be almost fantastic. No, that isn’t a goat on the Siquijor port. That’s a Doberman on the loose. And those aren’t stars, they’re fishermen. Yes, there will be many transfigurations in Siquijor, and your co-fellows too will transform into people you never expected them to be. Don’t let that wake you up from your dream of fireflies though. Be prepared for terrible bathrooms at Salagdoong. And don’t mind the rumours of jellyfish, you won’t get stung. But the challenge and thrill will make the swim more exhilarating. A week with Sir Krip will dilute some of the fame of his name. Yes, that pink phone is his. Try to meet Ma’am Annabelle Adriano, owner of Antulang, during the out-session there. The beach will have a spectacular view, but Ma’am Annabelle is a pleasant attraction herself. Yes, go ahead and scheme to be the emcee during the Fellows Night at the Director’s dinner so you won’t have to dance along with the others. You will be successful. Take a picture of the view from the balcony at Montemar. Your friend Alex will think it’s a painting. But as you lose your breath at the sheer grandeur of the view, don’t lose your workshop pen! Don’t make away Arkay to perform your play well, gaga. The director appointed for the play backed out on the last minute, so they will be at a gross disadvantage. Chat for a longer time with Bamboo Ranada. He will be a very close associate. Be prepared for your co-fellows’ comments! Their feedback will be payback.
Try to be closer to Ma’am Myrna; she’s a very nice person too. On your last night at Café Antonio try the salad, and try Neva’s pasta. Don’t spend too much! You will be short on money for the luggage excess. Don’t be too sad at Mich’s leaving; she’ll be in Davao in a few months. Do not resist the insomnia on your last night in Dumaguete. It will make sure you’re early for your flight to Cebu. Walk around. Don’t feel consternation about not having explored the place enough. There will be time for that. And that inkling that you’ll be back here? Yup, you will. You will see a different side of Dumaguete once you return for your MA degree. It will involve putomaya, pretty girls from Saint Paul University, forming the “Hassolers” with Arkay and Mike, and Revelations. A whole new world will be waiting. Your return will also involve unpleasant people, pathological cultures and terrible dorm conditions. During the workshop you can love the city, but pray, don’t be married to it. But don’t worry, the sense of place that overwhelmed you during the workshop is crystalized in memory. Our perceptions of places change, but the singularity of experiences is unalterable. Go ahead, borrow Tim Montes’ metaphor. The Dumaguete of your workshop will be the Dumaguete you will keep in your heart.
Newtonâ€™s Third Timothy James Dimacali
Motes of matter In ether, We are neither Here nor there. Trajectories borne Of interactions With each other: momentum. Memories dissolve, But collisions collude. Our paths remain Traces From the very first Moment of impact.
Death in Split-Screen Michael Aaron Gomez
Our marriage was tested sometime after the baby was born. My wife had given birth to a sprightly baby boy—weighing in at ten pounds and spanning eight inches—in the early hours of September 12, 2013 at the SUMC: an occasion made even more memorable by the driving rain and the streaks of lightning and the claps of thunder. It had taken nine hours. He’s going to be one tough kid, I had thought, being born on a night like this. Save for my wife’s smallish and light-brown eyes, the baby had my face: a stout and knobby nose, a round head, a high forehead, and large pointy ears. The doctor told me he was a handsome baby boy. I had to agree. We had decided on the baby’s name months ago: Michael. Michael was our first child, and so his birth bewildered me, perhaps even more than my wife: I had tripped all over myself to call the ambulance to our house when her water broke, I had blubbered consolations to her in an effort to ease her suffering— she’d gone deaf from her labor pains by then, and the nurses very nearly yelled at me to shut up during the ride—I had almost crushed her hand as we wheeled her to the delivery room, I had bitten my lips bloody as I waited outside for the whole thing to be over with, I had exhaled all the air inside my lungs when my wife finally showed me my son. Eyes bleary, my wife cradled him lovingly, kissed him, and whispered her affections to the life she had borne inside her for nine months. When she saw me come in, she brightened and groaned out that it was a boy. He had been wrapped in a clean blanket, and his newborn flesh glowed pink in the light. “Congratulations,” the doctor smiled. I shook his blood-smudged gloved hand—I almost dislocated
his entire arm from the shoulder, in fact. He smiled awkwardly, and proceeded to tell me how the delivery went: it was safe, no complication, the baby is healthy, and your wife’s going to be just fine—she just needs to rest. He congratulated me again. I looked at my wife, cooing into Michael’s ear—he squirmed a little—and she gave me a weak smile. And then she handed me the baby: in my unfamiliar arms, baby Michael cried out—I glanced inquiringly at my wife, but she was too tired to speak, so she just smiled—and squirmed again, but I cooed in his ear and rocked him gently until he eased into tiny gurgles and finally calmed down. So I’m really a father now, I thought. “Have you decided on a name?” the doctor asked me. My wife breathed out an answer: “Michael.” “Yes,” I agreed. “His name is Michael.” “That’s a nice name,” the doctor said. “He’s a junior,” I told him. He nodded smilingly. And then he said: “Well, you both need to take a break now. We’ll take baby Michael to the nursery soon after this, so I suggest you rest, get your strengths back, and celebrate this wonderful occasion.” “Okay,” I said. My wife nodded. The doctor repeated his congratulations, and he led his nurses out the door to make their preparations. I sat down beside my wife, playing with Michael’s stubby fingers, asking myself if all this was really happening. “He looks like you,” my wife said sleepily. I looked at my son again and grinned: “Yes, he’s a handsome boy.” She smiled again, and passed out—she was exhausted. I was, too. A month later, I took my family home. I had visited both baby Michael and my wife at the hospital nearly every day, after work: I’d peer in the large window of the SUMC nursery and search tirelessly for Michael’s face amidst the sea of babies in the room, I’d point at him and try to get his attention, I’d smile at him broadly whenever his tiny glance came upon my face. And then I’d go to my wife’s room and leave her my gifts of fruits and flowers—and some toiletries. “We’re home,” my wife said as she dusted her slippers on the welcome mat outside our front door. Michael gurgled, and his
mother poked at his little nose, tickled him and murmured baby talk at him. I looked at them both—it was the start of a happy family, soon enough we’d add to Michael, we’d repeat this cycle, and then we’d watch all of our children grow up. We’re growing old, I sighed, and turned the key in the lock. Upon entering the house, my wife kissed me. “You know, honey, I’m very happy,” she said. I smiled at her: “I’m very happy, too.” “Three years, and finally Michael’s here—this is just wonderful.” “I still can’t believe it.” Playfully my wife poked my side—I flinched, chuckled. And then she sidled up to me and asked: “I know. I’m a mother now, and you’re a father. We’ll have to work harder. ” “We do,” I agreed. I tousled my wife’s hair, waved a finger before Michael’s face—he chortled and tried to grab it—and added, smiling: “But we’ll be together.” “That’s true. We will, won’t we?” I cleared my throat, and said: “We will, honey.” We kissed again, and then we climbed upstairs: I set our things down on our bed while my wife laid Michael on his new crib inside our new nursery. I stepped to the doorway of our bedroom and watched my wife standing by the doorway of Michael’s own room. She was serene, her arms were crossed, and her lips were curled in a satisfied smile. I stuffed my hands inside my pockets and leaned on the wall. The two of us met in New York five years ago: she’d been a nurse there, while I’d been an alcoholic wreck—our first meeting took place at a general hospital in Toronto when I’d accompanied my father there for a checkup. My wife was the attending nurse— she was one of a handful of Filipina nurses working there, and our shared provenance bonded us. Despite my state, we began seeing each other after her shifts: going out to dinner, watching shows at Broadway, walking around Times Square. We dated for two years, and then we decided to get married—we chose to do it in Dumaguete: it’s time for you to come back home, she’d told me, I’ll be with you. At work the next morning, my colleagues in Silliman University’s English department hounded me: I taught BC-12, Basic Composition, there a year after I got married. My coworkers had all been introduced to my wife, and I had told them about her pregnancy, and then I had proudly announced to them my son’s
birth. “When are you going to let us see baby Michael?” a Language teacher asked. “It’s only been a month,” I replied. “And my wife needs to rest.” “How is your wife, Mike?” another BC-12 teacher asked. “She’s fine. She’s still a little tired, but she’s fine.” And then the department chairperson came out of her office and joined in: “So, how’s it like being a new father, Mike?” “Just like teaching, ma’am. I don’t know if I’ll do it right.” “You’ll learn,” she chuckled. “You’re a student again.” “I just hope I don’t get an F,” I said, drawing a laugh from everybody. Returning from my last class that day—a 2:30 p.m. class every Tuesday and Thursday—I noticed a colorful poster tacked on the bulletin board opposite the English department secretary’s desk: it informed me that a prominent and award-winning writer—also a professor at the Ateneo—was going to visit the university for a week, to give a lecture series and to read some excerpts from her prize-winning novel to an audience. The events were scheduled to begin on October 14—next week. My mouth fell out of my skull when I read the visitor’s name. An effeminate colleague—he taught BC-25, Research Paper Writing—noticed my shock and approached me from the table in the department lounge. He asked me what the matter was, saying I turned pale. I told him it was nothing: I could feel my armpits slowly streaming with sweat, I could feel a lump forming in my throat, I could feel my knees crumbling under me—to steady myself, I placed a hand on the wooden cabinet under the bulletin board. “Are you sure?” he asked again, his brows knitted. “Yes, I’m sure.” The BC-25 teacher looked me over, and he said: “All right.” And then he returned to his work at the lounge table. I read the announcement again, and confirmed it: she’s really coming back here, I thought, it’s been too long—it’s been nine years. I sighed, deeply. To the puzzled stare of the BC-25 teacher, I staggered to the water cooler at the corner of the lounge and had myself a glass. It was as cold as the sweat under my arms. Presently the department chair entered the room and greeted us, and then, turning to me, she said: “Oh Mike, can you see me in my office? I need your help with something.”
Confused, I agreed. In her office, the chairwoman informed me that she wanted me to help out with the preparations for the distinguished writer’s visit to the university on the 14th: I was to make the programs for the lecture series and the reading, and I was to assist in the physical arrangements. The chairwoman had left the other tasks to the Literature and Creative Writing teachers: but I need your help for one other thing, my boss told me. She said: “Mike, I want you to take care of her during her stay.” “Take…care, ma’am?” “Just make sure she has a good time: show her around, take her to places. There are a lot of new things here in Dumaguete that I’m sure she’d like. Besides, don’t you know each other? You’ll have a lot of catching up to do,” she explained. I fidgeted in my seat, pursed my lips—but I agreed anyway. “Good,” the chairperson said. “She’ll arrive on the 12th, on the 7:30 a.m. flight. Pick her up, and take her to Coco Grande: she already made her reservation.” Walking outside the office, I was met by the varying looks of my fellow teachers: they were flashing me perplexed and concerned glances—it was as though a ghost had suddenly appeared, and I was the only one who saw. One of them, a pretty young woman— teaching Lit-21, Philippine Literature—approached me and asked if anything was wrong. She said I looked like I had seen a ghost: I smiled. They all know nothing, I thought, but it doesn’t make things any easier. And she whispered to me: “Did she say anything to you?” “Nothing,” I answered. “She wants me to help you out for next week.” “Ah, yes. You’re going to make the programs, right?” “That’s right,” I said. “Great,” she replied. “We’ll need them on Monday. Can you do it?” “Yes, no problem.” On my way home that day—it was already 5:30 p.m.—I stopped by the Hi-Top convenience store outside the campus, across the street from the Katipunan Hall. The cramped place was crammed with students buying snacks, cell phone load, school supplies, and cigarettes: I was one of the latter, and I had a leisurely smoke on the sidewalk outside the store. It was the first cigarette I’d had in three years, and it felt unusually good. A group of three boys clad
in shorts and slippers, with backpacks slung on their shoulders, were smoking there, too—I recognized one of them, the tallest guy with a long nose and a pimply face, he was from one of my morning BC-12 classes. He saw me and grinned mischievously. “Hey, sir!” he greeted me. “You’re smoking too, ah!” “Cigarettes are bad for your health.” “Eh, you’re a teacher and you’re smoking in front of us. You’re showing a bad example to your students,” he joked, taking a long drag from his cigarette. I did the same and said: “We’re not in class.” The students laughed. They began talking among themselves, and when they were through smoking, they dropped their cigarette butts onto the pavement and promptly stomped them out, after which they left, with my student waving at me as he crossed the street: “See you, sir!” “See you,” I waved back. The group had disappeared, and my cigarette had burned out: I dropped it onto the potted plant beside me, and hailed a pedicab for home. The tables were turned now, I thought, now I’m teaching kids how to write, just like our visitor, but she is a writer. Good for her: she’s made it—and then that usual dull, heavy sensation once again filled my chest: finally, after nine years, she’s coming back. It was all too impossible—I pressed my eyes shut. There is no escape now: even if it is too late. When I got home, I immediately went upstairs to check on my son. I found my wife inside Michael’s nursery (its walls were painted a light blue and decorated with little drawings of cartoon characters, and its floor was smattered with small toys), standing over his crib (above which were strung up multicolored paper cutouts of the moon and the sun and the stars), admiring the baby’s pure innocence. Stealthily I approached her, and then I hugged her tightly from behind: she gave a surprised laugh, and I kissed her. I’m home, I said. Trapped in my embrace, she said: “Welcome home, honey.” I looked inside the crib. Michael was sleeping soundly. “Isn’t he just adorable, honey?” she asked. “He is my junior,” I chuckled. “Our little bundle of joy.” I reached in and let a hand dangle above Michael, as though I were blessing him. My wife caressed my arms, and leaned her head on my chest. From behind we looked like a perfectly happy family— she never even noticed my cigarette stink.
“Well, honey,” I said, letting go of my wife, “I’m hungry.” She lit up and said: “Oh, I have to fix dinner! OK honey, I’ll go to the kitchen now. What do you want to eat?” “Whatever you like. If you cook it, it’s going to be good.” “Oh you,” she said, planting a kiss on my lips. “It’ll just be a minute.” And then my wife went downstairs to prepare the food. On her way out the door, I told her that I had something to tell her. She didn’t seem to hear, and she simply skipped out and onto the stairs. I stayed behind and observed the sleeping infant: he seemed so fragile, like a porcelain cup. Even I could break him, I thought. Nine years ago I flew to New York to fulfill my ambitions as a writer: back then my head had overflowed with delusions of immersing myself in the bohemian life—of feeding myself by working a series of menial jobs, of hitchhiking across the continent, of meeting a host of new people, thereby earning my dues as a writer. (Somewhere in there were also sex, alcohol, and drugs.) Many of my heroes had realized that ideal: Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Raymond Carver, and a lot of others. New York was where everything happened, I thought, it’s the place for me. It was in college when I’d first dreamed of being a writer: after discovering the pleasures of reading—from reading the texts my teachers had required me to study during my time as a hapless Literature major, I began exploring the field, expanding my horizons: from Stendhal I wandered onto Celine, from Twain I stumbled upon Kurt Vonnegut, from Whitman I drifted into Henry Miller, and so on. It had all been so simple then, I only had to imitate what I’d read, and then I’d be great—I wrote and wrote and wrote, and I showed my early stories to my writer-teachers, who proceeded to trash them, but I never stopped: it was as though my blood had been replaced with an endless stream of words and sentences. Soon enough my betters noticed my determination and improvement, and they prodded me on. And so after I had graduated from Silliman University with a degree in Literature—I was twenty-one then—I holed myself up at home and buried myself in writing. I never did once apply for a job, I banked everything on my writing—in hindsight it may have been grossly impractical, but I never could find the romance in a normal workaday life, I did not see what possible good there was in slaving away at an office for the rest of my life: I’d much rather be a writer, I thought. It was here that my father intervened: he
had been tired of my laziness, he said, and he demanded that I follow him to New York to find work there—it’s time you knew how to work for a goddamn living, he growled. I agreed: I would be one step closer to my heroes there. But I had another reason to leave. On the May after graduation, I attended the summer national writers’ workshop in Dumaguete: I’d heard about it from my Poetry teacher (he himself was an alumnus there), I had applied, and fortunately, I’d been accepted. I was one of six fellows for fiction— there were twelve fellows in all, coming from all over the country. I was the hometown kid. The whole thing lasted for three weeks, and naturally, having spent the time with the same people, it couldn’t be helped that special unbreakable bonds should be formed: friendships, maybe fraternity. And even love— “So, what was it, honey?” my wife suddenly asked. I had gotten tangled in the forest of my consciousness, and her voice woke me up—I jerked my head, scratched my nose, and realized that I was at the dinner table, fork and spoon in my hands. I put down my utensils and asked her to repeat her question. “Is something wrong? You were spaced out.” “It’s nothing, honey.” My wife eyed me curiously, tilting her head, running her eyes across my face. And then she said: “You said that you wanted to tell me something.” Suddenly I remembered. I cleared my throat and informed her about my assignment regarding the visiting writer’s lecture series and readings scheduled for next week—also that I’d been designated to be her ‘official yaya’ during her stay. “That’s great, honey!” she exclaimed. “Who’s the writer?” “It’s,” I said, breathing deeply. “It’s Liana Flores, honey.” My wife’s face darkened at this: there had been no secrets between us. She finished her dinner without another word. I watched her shuttle her plate into the kitchen, where I heard her wash it—the gushing of tap water and the tinkling of the silverware combined to underscore the stuffy atmosphere that had begun to condensate inside the house. There were portents of a storm at the dinner table. Slowly and quietly I continued my dinner and listened to my wife in the kitchen: the water continued running for some time, longer than I expected her to finish washing her own plate—I wondered
what she could be doing in there. But I didn’t stop eating. I took the rest of the dishes into the kitchen. My wife was motionless before the sink, her hands gripping the tiled surface, her long hair cascading over her face like a black waterfall—the sound of the running water seemingly drowning her inside the small space. Stepping lightly, I approached and gently set the plates and bowls by the sink. I stood beside my wife and said nothing. “Why,” my wife said, her hair still obscuring her face, “is she coming back?” “I told you honey, she’s going to give lectures at Silliman.” “Is that the only reason?” I sighed. I laid a hand on her shoulder: it was shuddering. And then I said: “Yes—yes, it is. It’s over now—you ended that.” Feeling my hand, my wife slightly angled her head toward it. She said: “And now it’s going to start again.” “Look, honey, I married you,” I answered calmly. “Didn’t I?” “So why don’t you hold me now?” Pressing my eyes shut, I did what I was told. Her soft flesh melted like butter in my arms, her warmth seeped into my own body, her respiration synchronized with mine—her body had stopped shaking, and her strong grip on the edge of the sink had relaxed. She’d calmed down this time, I thought, but Liana’s coming back next week, but then: Michael’s already here, all of it was over. But my chest remained weighed down—the dull ache had never left. I started to send my hands gliding down her body, but my wife twisted herself to face me, and she looked into my eyes: hers had begun to mist over, and droplets had started to form at their corners. Coolly she said: “Let me finish with the dishes, honey.” I let go of her. I stepped back and watched her as she picked up the greasy plates and bowls and utensils, let the water wash them clean, lather them with dishwashing fluid, and rinse them. And then I helped her arrange the things in the rack: this we did wordlessly. I turned off the water. “I’m going upstairs,” I said afterward. “I’ll be there soon.” “Okay.” And so I exited the kitchen and went upstairs. I went inside the nursery and checked on our baby. Michael was still sleeping in his crib, but his pudgy hands were groping around now, and his stubby feet were kicking at the air. He’d probably start crying
when he wakes up, I thought. I wondered what I would do when that happened: fathers are mostly useless when it comes to these things. Maybe I should cradle him, sing him a lullaby. I stayed there for a while, looking at my son. Soon enough my wife came inside the room and stood beside me. She observed Michael, and I looked at her—she didn’t return my glance. Her hands gripped the edge of the crib. “I think he’s waking up,” I told my wife. “I’ll handle it,” she said. Leaving the nursery, I heard Michael start crying, followed by my wife singing softly to him. I stood by the door and listened to this moment between mother and son: she was crooning some lullaby to him, and little by little, Michael’s wailing subsided, until it finally stopped. And then I peeked inside the room and saw my son suckling on his mother’s breast. In turn, my wife was pacing around the room, her body swaying—as though she were following a slow dance, a languid rhythm. I crept back downstairs, dropped by the bathroom and rummaged through the hamper. In my pants I fished out the pack of cigarettes I’d bought earlier in the day, plus its accompanying matches. These I took with me to the kitchen—it was dark, and I turned on the lights—where I picked out a bottle of Johnnie Walker stowed away in the cupboard: the drinks were reserved for guests and special occasions. Seated now at the kitchen table, I pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and poured myself an inch of whiskey. I took down a mouthful— the liquor went smoothly down my gullet, and its special warmth seeped into my bones and soothed my tension a little bit: timely drinks are the best after all, I thought. And then I went to the dish rack and got a saucer for my cigarette ash. I tapped my cigarette on the saucer and let my mind wander. Back in New York I used to nurse bottles of whiskey—actually, the drink never mattered—after work, before I went to write at the computer in my apartment. (I’d moved out of my father’s own apartment after a month.) Most times I got too hammered before I even typed out the first word on the screen: the last thing I would see before I passed out being the blinking cursor, seemingly beating down my failing consciousness. The words had ceased flowing in that city, replaced as they were
with salty sweat and sweet alcohol. I’d worked as a dishwasher in some unsanitary Chinese restaurant somewhere in Brooklyn, together with some other expatriates: some of them Filipino. When I’d told them that I came to New York because I wanted to be a writer—an artist of international renown—that I planned to use my dishwashing job as a springboard to launch my illustrious literary career, they simply laughed at me. You’re a crazy kid, they jeered: you won’t last long here with that attitude. Inebriated as I was with my delusions, I ignored them—at first. The work had ground me down worse than I’d imagined: soon enough I was tasked to help haul in the crates of ingredients from the delivery van to the kitchen, I was made to clean the floors, I was even ordered to cook some of the food (which I never learned to do, for that matter), and sometimes I was demanded to work long into the night when the place ran short of employees. I’d be too exhausted to write when I went home—and I’d think, shit, no wonder Jack Kerouac wound up a stinking, raving alcoholic. This misery continued for about three years: I still missed Liana Flores. In bed at dawn, after another futile night at the machine, I would imagine Liana: groping in the air for her, unconsciously, the same way Michael did earlier. And then I’d groan out her name in my sleep, although there had been no dreams for me in that country, as well. Stuck between an unfulfilling job and an unquenchable longing for someone far away, I eventually landed on liquor—I disappeared on weeklong benders, until the Chinese restaurant finally had enough of me. Unemployed, I carried on the fun, sometimes with my former coworkers, but usually alone, and there were even days when my father had to haul me from the police station because I’d gotten arrested for vagrancy—in the morning the cops would find me totally plastered on a bench somewhere, or even on the pavement outside the liquor store near my place. It was a wonder my wife even considered me. And now, my first drink in five years, I realized as I gulped down the whiskey. The week passed without incident, although I’d started smoking and drinking again: everyday after office hours, I’d drop by Hi-Top and smoke a couple of cigarettes there, and every night after my wife had gone to sleep, I’d sneak downstairs and fix myself glasses of straight whiskey—just enough to put me to sleep, after working on Liana’s programs and grading papers and making lesson plans. There was always this struggle from my wife whenever I snuggled up to her in bed—she turned her back to me, she chafed against
my embrace, she flipped my arm off her body. “You’re drinking again, you’re smoking again,” she remarked over breakfast last Tuesday. She had cooked up scrambled eggs and fried rice, bought a loaf of fresh bread, and prepared fresh coffee: all without speaking a word to me. “It’s the stress, honey,” I said dumbly. “I have to write the programs for next week’s events. And I have to grade my students’ essays, make lesson plans.” My wife stared at me glumly, stabbed her fork into a piece of egg, and then she said: “You’re working hard.” “It’s a big deal, honey. Liana is an award-winning writer.” “Like you once hoped to be.” My ears perked up at this—I laid down my fork and spoon on the table, and glared at her: she was averting her eyes from me, picking at her food as though she had disliked the taste of her own cooking. I said: “You saved me from all that, honey. Remember?” “Now I wonder if you even wanted to be saved.” “The writing thing is over for me now.” “Why don’t you start again?” she asked, her eyes boring right through me. “It’s not so easy. The effort, the drinking: they’re not worth it anymore. I’m happy now—I’m happy with you, honey.” “You should think about Michael.” “He’s innocent, honey,” I said, picking up my utensils and lifting a piece of egg over rice into my mouth. “Please, don’t bring him into this.” “He’s your son. It’s unfair to him.” “There’s nothing going on between me and Liana,” I stressed. I raised my coffee mug to my lips and added: “It’s over: it’s been over for nine years.” “You don’t get it,” my wife asserted, aiming her fork at me. “That woman is finally coming back, and you’re getting all worked up about it. I’m not blind. I’m also not stupid, Mike.” “Liana and I never even got started, honey.” My wife glared at me through the rim of her coffee cup. And then she said: “Exactly, Mike.” I said nothing. Instead I finished my breakfast, stood up from my chair, walked over to my wife, and kissed her: she had offered her cheek—her eyes pointing at some space on the tiled floor—but her skin felt surprisingly cold to my lips: it was as though my wife had locked her warmth deep inside her. Shutting my eyes, I sighed. And then I assured her: “I’ll always come home to you, honey.”
She said nothing. I grabbed my satchel and went upstairs to check on Michael: he was asleep inside his crib, and I bent down and gave him a soft kiss on the forehead. Michael is my son, I brought him into this world, but still, he scared me: his innocence, his helplessness, and his fragility—I could easily crush him, but I could never leave him. Liana, I thought, if he was our— Vigorously, I shook my head and left the nursery, suddenly breaking into a cold sweat. I gripped my satchel, and slithered my way out of the house. Early morning on the 12th found me at the Sibulan Airport waiting for the award-winning fictionist Liana Flores’ plane to land. I was in a blue shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Behind the fence fronting the arrival area, I stood and held a small placard with her name printed on it—which I had prepared the night before— smoking a cigarette all the while. A few others had brought their own placards. Just outside the fence, a few taxi and multi-cab dispatchers, together with some pedicab drivers, were waiting for the plane as well: the security guard cast them wary stares. A couple of cigarettes later, the deafening zoom of the airplane descended on the tarmac, and the passengers streamed out of the aircraft. They came in all shapes and sizes, in all nationalities: there were tall white men and women coming out of the terminal, some of them followed by their brown companions. I had raised my placard before my face—but it was too late, as I heard a loud yell: “Mike!” And then I heard shoes crunching against the pavement, trailed by wheels grating against the concrete, until they stopped—and I finally looked: there was Liana, wearing a light-blue dress, her shoulders draped in a white shawl, her head covered by a straw hat with a purple ribbon tied under her chin. And she had eyeglasses on. Our eyes met, and then she threw herself at me, squeezing me against the warm cushion of her body. Liana buried her head on my chest. I dropped the placard. Nine years peeled back in an instant. My chest burst open. Long eyebrows, round eyes, full cheeks, thin lips, fragrant hair, and plump body: she was the Liana I had known all those years ago—the woman around whom three weeks of my life had revolved, with whom I would have spent a hundred years, from whom I had wasted nine years of my life trying to escape. Not much
has changed, I thought, save for a few lines from the corners of her eyes, she still looks as beautiful as when she was twenty-three—I cleared my throat and sunk my nose into her lavender-scented hair: Liana’s embrace tightened even more. “Long time no see, Mike,” she said, finally breaking away. “Yeah.” “How long has it been, nine years?” “That’s right,” I answered feebly. “I went to New York.” “Really, Mike? What did you do there?” “I tried—” But then I just shrugged, and said: “It’s good that you’re back.” Spreading her arms wide, twirling in place, and flashing me a bright smile—her braces sparkling in the early morning sunlight— she said: “It’s good to be back, I love it here. Brings back memories.” “It does.” She smiled again, and then I led her to the airport taxi I had hired to transport us to her hotel, Coco Grande, along Hibbard Avenue. The writer’s baggage consisted of a large brown Samsonite stroller and a purple shoulder bag: I helped the driver lift the heavy stroller into the trunk, while she held on to the smaller bag. I opened the backseat door for her, and she got in. The driver sped off when I had sat beside him. In the car, Liana asked me what I’d been up to lately. “I’m a teacher now,” I replied, looking at her through the rearview mirror. “I teach BC-12 at Silliman. I’m also your official yaya during your stay in Dumaguete.” Liana laughed, and then she asked: “What’s BC-12?” “Basic Composition. It’s how to write paragraphs, things like that.” “So you teach kids how to write,” she remarked smilingly. “Pretty much. Same as you.” “Only we’re not kids anymore,” Liana said, looking out the window. Only I don’t write anymore, I wanted to say, but I held my tongue. For the rest of the taxi ride, the two of us were silent—Liana was busy admiring the rush of Dumaguete’s scenery careening past her window: the clay pots in Daro, the pedicabs parked outside the Provincial Hospital, the motorcycles by the Sidlakang Negros Village—we had already turned down the highway in Piapi. Like the driver, I kept my eyes glued to the road, glancing sideways from time to time, taking glimpses at the fruits and vegetables stalls on
the roadside, the tempura and fishball stands in between them, and then we passed the Provincial Tourism Office promotional arch, displaying the smiling faces of the spelunking employees shouting out their slogan: The Fun Starts Here, Naturally—it doesn’t apply to me, I thought. And then I heard a phone ring: it was Liana’s—she took her cell phone out of her bag, held it up to her ear, and talked into it. Her voice was, as always, bright and jolly. After the hellos, Liana said: “Yes, dear, I’m already here, it was a safe trip. Of course, of course—yes, I’m on my way to the hotel now. I’m in a taxi, can you believe it?” She continued: “Yes, they sent someone to pick me up. It’s Mike! You know, my old batch-mate, from the workshop, I told you about him. Yes, he picked me up—no, you dummy, he’s an English teacher at Silliman, that’s why.” And then: “How’s Aida, by the way? Is she still sleeping? Oh, well, tell her Mommy loves her and she’s going to bring her a big, big box of Sans Rival when she gets back, okay? I hope she doesn’t cry again. Yes, dear, I will. Yes, you too.” And finally: “I love you too, dear.” Liana hung up. I had sunk deep into my seat, almost as though I were about to be sucked into its upholstery, my eyes shut. The driver was oblivious to everything. And then Liana addressed me: “Sorry, it’s my husband.” I said nothing. “My little girl’s yaya just went home, and he’s a little worried.” “That’s fine, Liana.” Silence had descended upon us until we arrived at Coco Grande. I opened the backseat door for Liana, and then I helped the driver unload her monstrous stroller from the trunk. Paying him for his services, I watched as he wheeled the taxi away—I pulled Liana’s stroller after me and led her inside. I sat down on the soft brown leather couch in the lobby and read the newspaper spread out on the coffee table while Liana attended to her reservation. And then a bellboy was called, and he dragged her humongous Samsonite stroller toward the elevator, and Liana followed. They didn’t come down for some time—I threw glances at the elevator in between perusing the editorials. Soon Liana appeared, tugging at the strap of her purple shoulder bag—she had changed into a purple dress, too, but her straw hat remained on her head. Wonderful, I thought. “Well, I’m all done. What’s the plan now, yaya?” she asked,
chuckling. I snickered, and said: “Aren’t you tired, Liana? It was an early flight.” “Oh, Mike, I’m fine. I don’t get vacations often, so I’ll have my fun now!” I smiled at her: “Okay, then. I know a place.” “Great, let’s go!” Liana exclaimed, her face beaming. And so we left Coco Grande: I asked Liana if she still knows how to hail a pedicab, and pouting at me with her arms akimbo, she flagged one down. Chuckling, I told the driver to take us to Sans Rival—Liana laughed, she missed the place, and I smirked at her: her face shone when she alighted at the larger bistro. Oh wow, she said, this place wasn’t here nine years ago: this is beautiful. “It’s a new place,” I smiled, and I led her by the arm into the patio. We sat down at one of the tables beside the brick wall—it overlooked the Boulevard and the deep blue sea beyond—and Liana ordered our brunch: a couple slices of the restaurant’s trademark Sans Rival and coffee. I remembered the two of us sitting on the seawall—on the spot behind the statues of the Paulinian sisters landing on Dumaguete’s shores—talking the night away, waiting for the sunrise. We had teased each other, we had joked, we had laughed: Liana’s head on my shoulder blocked out everybody else at that moment—a long time ago now, I mused. And then I pulled out my cigarettes and lit one. Exhaling the smoke, I fixed my eyes on that spot on the wall. I could feel Liana staring at me. She had laid her hat on the table. “You still smoke,” she noted. “My wife made me quit,” I said, pursing my lips, tilting the cigarette slightly. Liana’s eyes widened, and she asked: “You’re married, Mike?” I tapped out some of my cigarette ash on the glass ashtray. And then I showed her my tiny gold wedding band and smirked at her: “Hey, don’t be so surprised, Liana. I’ll think you’re making fun of me.” “Sorry,” she chortled. “When?” “Three years ago. We have a baby now, too: Michael, my junior.” “Did you marry her in New York?” “No, she wanted to do it here,” I said, puffing on my cigarette. Here Liana leaned back on her chair, pinched the brim of her straw hat, and looked pensively at the boulevard: people were either
promenading there, or sitting on the seawall or on the benches, or picnicking on the well-trimmed grass. Liana laid her hands on the table—her gold wedding ring glinted in the sunlight. She said: “You’re really unfair, Mike.” I said nothing. She stared straight at me and added: “You disappeared for nine years. I had no idea where you were, what you were doing, who you were with. That’s not what friends do—especially friends like us.” At this she shook her head slowly. “It’s been unfair from the start, Liana.” She said nothing. I took a long drag from my cigarette and continued: “That’s why I left.” Liana placed her left hand on my free one, clenching slightly on the table. And then she asked me, her deep black eyes drilling into mine, hypnotic and magnetic: “Do you blame me, Mike?” “I don’t, Liana,” I answered, seeing myself in her eyes. “I can’t.” And she broke her clasp. “I did everything to keep things the same, Mike. It was beyond our control.” “Can you blame me for trying to take control?” Sighing deeply, Liana traced some random pattern on the tabletop using a forefinger, and she replied: “No, Mike—I can’t.” I stubbed out my cigarette on the ashtray and said nothing. Liana fell silent too, still drawing invisible shapes on the table. The sea breeze gently rustled her hair, wafting its sweet fragrance to me—she tried to keep her hair still with a hand, but to no avail: I loved burying my nose in that lushness, I recalled. I lit another cigarette. “Well, but you’re happy with your life now, right?” Liana asked, smiling. “I’m grateful to my wife.” Before Liana could reply, our orders arrived. The waitress arranged our plates and our cups on the table, placed the napkins beside the kitchenware. Liana thanked her, and with a smile, the waitress left to serve another customer. Only after I had finished my cigarette did I start eating my dessert: Liana waited for me to do so. Throughout the meal, Liana and I were silent: the lusciously sweet Sans Rival reminded me of the equally delicious pizzas she and I had repeatedly shared at the Neva’s pizza parlor and the
steaming brewed coffee brought back to me the soft warmth of Liana’s body as I took her in my arms at the airport, on the day she finally went back to Manila—also on the night before, when she had told me that it was impossible between us: we’re just too far apart, Mike, and I have a fiancé, she had said, her sadness and reluctance perfectly audible. When we had finished with our meal, I lit another cigarette while Liana dabbed at her lips with her napkin. After a while, she folded it up and asked: “Do you still write, Mike?” I cleared my throat and said: “No, I wasn’t strong enough.” Liana pressed her eyes shut, and said nothing. It wasn’t even until I saw that poster, I remarked to myself, that I learned you’d won all those awards, published your novel, taught at the Ateneo—that’s what too much drinking can do to you, I concluded: so much for the bohemian life. I tapped my cigarette onto the ashtray and sipped at the rest of my coffee. Contemplatively, Liana fixed her gaze on the comings and goings at the boulevard. “The view here is still so lovely,” Liana commented. “You should take your family here sometime.” “I know,” she said, giving me a tender smile. And then another wave of silence: we sat there and looked at the boulevard—I kept seeing the two of us on the promenade: walking close together, sitting next to each other, whispering to each other. Liana smiled, watching the people going about their business beside the sea. And then my phone beeped: it was a text from my wife telling me to come home for lunch. I sighed and crushed out my cigarette. “Sorry Liana,” I said, standing up. “I have to go—my wife’s looking for me.” Startled, she replied: “Oh, yes, that’s right, we’ve stayed here too long.” And Liana stood up, put her hat back on, and told me that she wanted to go back to Coco Grande. I volunteered to take her there, but with a slight shake of the head and a gentle smile, she said: “Your wife’s looking for you, Mike.” “You’re right,” I said, and then I offered to exchange digits—she agreed. Pocketing her phone, Liana said: “I’ll see you soon, Mike.” “Yeah.” Liana Flores embraced me: her head buried on my shoulder, mine buried on her hair. We stayed locked together for a while,
and then she broke away. The two of us waited for a pedicab, and I hailed one this time: Liana got in, grinned and waved at me as she did, and I kept my eyes on her—purple dress and straw hat and all—as the pedicab whirred away, turned left on the boulevard, and disappeared. And so I walked. My wife always insisted we eat together, I thought, no matter how tired she or I were: it’s sad to eat alone, she had said—when that was, though, I couldn’t recall. Now Michael’s at home, too, and years from now, he’ll be able to join us at the dining table: it would be messy at first, to be sure—he’d play with his food, he’d refuse to eat it, he’d throw it at the wall or even my wife or myself. She’d feed him first, and then I’d do it too, until Michael would be old enough to eat on his own. And then, decades later, he’d be the one to feed his own family. But for now, I was the one to feed baby Michael—and I was to spend one whole week with Liana. When I reached the intersection at Santa Catalina Street, I took one last look at the sea. I sighed, and then noted to myself: “Still a thousand miles away to New York.”
The Doves of Memory Hazel Meghan B. Hamile I. Even as my eyes tried to look for any light or any shadow to conjure any form, there was nothing. I could not see the road. It was just when a stone pressed against the slippers and hurt the foot when the feeling came that there was a path, something that would lead somewhere. There were big trees at the sides, only hinted at by the frequent visit to this place. Some kind of instinctive familiarization. Also there was a feeling that the thick shade of leaves were covering the head and preventing any moonlight to pass through. I reached for a hand from somebody at my side. It was there. It held my hand. I took mine away. Some things never change. Words just came to me that I kept on repeating in my head. Recited continuously that it almost became a song with a tune I made myself. My ten-year-old body was already cold when we reached their house. For weeks, my younger brother and I had been fetched from our own house after school at four pm, or on Saturdays and Sundays. Uncle Nick and Aunty Jen-Jen watched over us while mother took care of father at the hospital. It was different now. It was dawn. I sat by their bamboo bench and stared at the calendar. I asked every time we went there, “Kanus-a sila mu-uli?” (When will they come home?) “Sunod semana o mga tulo ka semana sugod karon,” (Next week or three weeks from now,) came the answer. I stared at the same calendar. The same rows and columns of
numbers printed bold. Aunt Jen-Jen sat next to me. She tried to be consoling but what came out was a matter-of-fact tone, “Patay na gud imong papa, Meg.” (“Your father is dead, Meg.”) They waited for a response. “Kanus-a sila mu-uli?” (When will they come home?) “Ugma sa buntag.” (Tomorrow morning.) I stood up, climbed three steps of bamboo stairs, and lay down on a banig. I hugged Kim, my younger brother with autism, to prevent him from banging his knees against his forehead. I tried to shed some tears. Tears that just welled up like on TV when kids heard news like that. Nothing came out. I curled up hugging Kim, and looked up at the lawanit window. Aunt Jen-Jen once told us that their neighbor was a wak-wak with huge bat’s wings. It flew at two in the morning looking for babies. What if it would peer through the slits in the window? Some things never change. Words with some kind of comfort. Some kind of acceptance. Some kind of prayer. I slept. I would be home in the morning. “Hala! Naa na si Migan! (Hala! Migan is here!)The woman had her hair tied in a bun but strands of it fell to her shoulders, and her loose floral shirt was still wet as if she had just left her laundry. She was letting the whole neighborhood know. Was I a celebrity entering the street? Two rows of houses lined up beside the street. A chapel faced the whole street at the end of each row. Beside it was our house. From afar, I could see the open chapel. Bright orange bulbs. People waited for my reaction. Some things never change. I walked normally. I would not indulge in any drama, I swore. I entered Sr. San Jose Chapel. White curtain with ruffles hung on the wall. A shiny copper brown coffin was at the altar. A bouquet of flowers stood at the head of the coffin. The leaves were as big as marang leaves. The greenness of the leaf was like a latex paint, and whoever painted it did not bother to dilute it with white paint. The violet petals were like crumpled papers and made stiff with bottles of glue. Fresh red roses at the foot of the coffin. A red carpet. Four metals formed X’s as the coffin’s legs. Polished white shells were decorated at the sides of the coffin, and to be used later as the coffin’s handle. A Philippine flag at the half-closed part to honor his service as a firefighter. I tiptoed to see the glass. I saw papa. His face was caked with face cream. His brown complexion mixed with
a white foundation cream resulted in a peach colored face. His lips were pinkish from lipstick. “He looks small,” a woman whispered behind me. “From hospital confinement, I guess,” another answered. I had always measured myself against the height of papa. When we were walking on the street, I held his hand. It was rough from calluses. He had a beer belly. One, two, three. I punched it. It was hard yet my small hands bounced off as if it was a balloon filled with air. I looked up at him. I saw his brown and burnt skin. His muscles were rocks glued to his arms. In the middle of his bicep was a big lump. “What’s that?” I asked. He looked at me with what others called soulful eyes but those were sleepy eyes to me. Anting-anting, he said. I knew it was not. He was joking. He looked straight at the road, serious and brave. But whoever was on the street, patting their roosters to boost it for a Sunday cockfight or drinking bahalina, he stopped and talked with them. The lump was not there with him in his coffin anymore. It was a funny stranger, small, with face cream and lipstick. Black cloth hung on the wall of our house. Inside, a dirty white embroidered curtain with crocheted flowers at the edges and ruffled cloth at the bottom was draped on every window and door. Too many people. Several cousins came. They taught me tongits. O, Hesus ko, kaluoy-i ang kalag ni Manolito…
Nga namatay ka tungod ka niya… Ug namatay ug gilubong ug gilansang ka sa krus…*
The mananabtan chanted in prayer, prolonging every syllable and almost lamenting at the end of every line. Her head was bowing and nodding in front of the coffin as if pleading for something, or was she just sleepy? We overheard the mananabtan in the chapel while cousins taught me how to play tricks with cards. I hadn’t played cards before. First, divide the stack of cards into two groups. Place one group on your right. Another on your left. Second, let Cham-Cham choose one card from the left and let her remember it. Third, put her card * Oh, Jesus, have mercy on the soul of Manolito… You died because of him… And died and buried and nailed you to the cross…
on the top of the cards on your right. Do not look at it. Fourth, pick the card at the bottom of the left side group and remember it. It was Queen of Hearts. Fifth, put the left group on top of the right. Shuffle the cards. Silently, for dramatic effect, I showed her 4 malunggay. It was correct. Sixth rule: Do not shuffle at the middle. Her 4 malunggay from the right group would always come after my Queen of Hearts. Sa langub among gipuy-an imo kaming panabangan… (In the cave that we live, God help us) I chanted. We laughed. Hoy! A bigger kid stopped me, this is a wake! But she laughed anyway. Bawal maligo sa balay. (Don’t take a bath inside the house.) No television, too when someone dies. I told Mimi my plan. Before we went to uncle Miyok’s house, the house at the next street, to take our baths, we would go swimming. We ran out from our street and turned left. There was a cluster of huts, a muddy ground that smelled of piss and cigarette butts floating on the puddle, until we reached some planks of wood nailed beside the river. Mimi and I made it our platform, and we somersaulted into the water. I told her to climb a tree and jump into the water. She did not take my challenge. But there was a branch of mango tree just hanging low. We held tightly to it, then dropped to the water. Dripping wet, we emerged from the huts. We peeked inside our street. The chapel was there. We could be seen. I told Mimi to run fast. We ran across the road to Mintal gym and hid at the seesaw. Again, we ran across another street and went to uncle Miyok’s house. We played with soap. I saw a piece of paper on a table. “What is this?” I asked my mother when she arrived to get it. “Just documents,” she said. And I heard the adults talking even when they tried to talk far from me. It was uncle Berting’s handwriting. He was intelligent, they said. They were withdrawing the case. If Mama pursued it, I heard ate Violet talking, the suspect could win the case. It would affect our pension and educational benefits. But I wanted Boy to be in jail. He stabbed papa. Pierced, I told my classmates. We piled up our bags at a bench under a Mangium tree while waiting for the flag ceremony. “Stabbed” was too heavy for these grade five classmates. “By what?” a classmate asked.
I felt my answer was unbelievable. “Barbeque stick.” “Where?” We were arranging our bags that slowly piled up as more kids arrived. “Stomach!” That afternoon, I went straight home. No more catching of grasshoppers in the school field. I wanted to see if Papa was on TV Patrol or Testigo. I switched channels, careful not to miss any segment. Maybe Mintal was too far for the news team to cover. But there it was. Papa lay on the floor of a jeepney that was about to go to the hospital. He was wearing the same red BMEG t-shirt he had on him when he went out that night. Its sleeves were cut and threads hung from its tip. I ran to the streets and shouted that my papa was on TV. I explained. But the kids didn’t believe me. What was he doing that night? Mama asked. Drinking, the witnesses replied. There was an argument. Papa was defending a friend. This part was what I liked to tell though I was not sure it was true. Boy, a fish vendor who sold pirit cooked over charcoal, had gone mad and stabbed him. “Was he there?” Mama asked, “Miyok, his brother?” Boy was his friend. He hid inside Miyok’s house after stabbing my father. I wanted Boy locked up in jail. It should be like that. My teachers said criminals should be imprisoned. I waited for Boy at the wake. To point out what he had done. He never showed up, though. Instead I drew a picture on a white bond paper. There was a man with rectangular face. A good morning towel was folded lengthwise which he wore as a bandana. His beard was like cotton all over his face. I marked his face, X. I would send him to jail. I would go to GMA Testigo to get that video as evidence. Malpractice, another thing I heard during the wake. Practice in surgery. Autopsy. Words I heard. Who was that doctor? I asked myself knowing that no adults would answer me anyway. I wanted to go to the hospital and handcuff that doctor. Knowing I could not do it, I settled with the thought: “when I grow up.” I waited for Boy during the wake. But a crazy person showed up instead. He was all bones and rags. He had gone mad and wild pointing at my father’s coffin. He wailed, walked few steps back and
when I thought he had already left, he came back again pointing at the coffin while he mumbled words I could not understand until I got something, “Kinsa ang nagbuhat ani?” (Who did this?) He was a ridiculous parody of a prophet in a Greek tragedy. One night, I went out with Mimi and went to a billiard hall at the end of the street. I arranged the balls in triangular form feeling like an expert but I was only doing it the way I saw people do. A scrawny vendor of a sari-sari store beside the bilyaran told me to go home, “Nagdula ka diri, patay imong papa didto” (You are playing billiards while your father’s dead.) Why should I stop playing? I ran across the street to Mintal park. I sat on a swing. My feet pushed the ground and jerked the seat with my butt to sway it. The metal chain creaked. Then it stopped. Across the street was where my father was stabbed. On another street, my father now lay dead. I gripped the swing’s side. It was ten o’clock. No children. No one on the street. I felt the silence and was somehow comforted by it. I stayed at the playground that way. I held the sides of the swing, which smelled of rust, tightly. I realized my feet dug the soil as I forced the swing. II.
Mama and I had waited for him for supper. He wanted to be assigned to the Mintal Fire Station from Bangoy and Sta. Ana Fire stations so he could go home to eat and save on fare expenses. Where was he? she asked. We were now going to sleep. He usually whistled, a signal that it was him. The street was silent and dogs didn’t bother to wake up from the sound of rocks accidentally kicked by a drunken man reeling in the street outside the house. Mosquitoes were hovering on the orange lampposts. Mama opened the door. Happy, happy, he whined. The smell of beer or tuba with durian and cigarette wafted in the air as he entered our room. Mama nagged him and they quarreled. Then I lay on my stomach and looked at the numbers on the wall that I had vandalized just above my head: 293-0112. I called the Fire Station every afternoon to ask if he would come home. “Hello?” “Naa akong papa dira?” (Is my father there?) It was as if I was sure everyone knew my voice.
“Kinsa?” (Who?) “Si Tito” (Tito) Several Minutes. From the other line, “Hello?” “Pa!” “Aw, dili ni imong papa. Dili daw siya kauli kay manglaba daw siya diri.” (No! this is not him. He won’t go home. He’s washing clothes.) “Paki-ingon, daghan mi ug tubig diri. Bye.” (Please tell him we have plenty of water at home. Bye.) But he preferred to wash his clothes at the fire station. Alexis, my classmate, told the class that when his father and mother fought at night, his older brother and sisters woke up and threw pillows at them. Alexis was crying as he revealed this domestic tidbit in class. I laughed. I wanted to do it to my own parents. I didn’t have brothers and sisters to make up a battalion, though. I wished he had stayed in Sta. Ana and just came home every other day, unlike in Mintal where he came home every night in a happy, happy mood. So at night I covered my face with a pillow and wrapped myself with a blanket. “Oo. Diri sila, te.” (Yes! They are here!) My fat aunt said. I found myself sitting on a big sofa beside my mother. I thought we were buying halo-halo in the market just as what Mama told Papa at home. “Ayaw saba te ha…” (Don’t tell him, te ha…) “Dili lage. Ingna lang ko unsay nahitabo…” (Yes! I won’t. Just tell me what happened.) Mama told her. “Bitaw te ay!” (Yes!) My cousin Nemar pointed up at the bedroom upstairs. “Taga-dira ra…” (Just living there…) My aunt added, “GRO sa Mintal.” (yeah! GRO in Mintal.) “Nah! Kato lageng isa ka gabii, te” Nemar said, “Nanakop mi ug bubuyog. Amo laging gibuy-an sa kwarto. Da! Gipamaak lage!” (You know, last night…..I caught some bees. I released them in their room. Yes! Bees stung them.) Mama said she wanted separation. Just money for the kids, she said, nothing else. Happy happy nights went on. We had more debts at the sarisari store. The wage was just enough to pay the debt, and we borrowed again. At home, I shouted at him, “You are not my father.”
He was bewildered. He did not understand me. I wished for his death. The bees stung him. In a room with another woman. III. “Crawl below the coffin,” an old woman said. I asked why, but somebody pushed my butt. I could have fallen to the floor but I was able to support myself with my palms and knees and crawled. A glass was smashed. I turned to see the shattered pieces, but somebody yelled at me, “Don’t look back. Walk ahead.” I squeezed my body against several people at the cemetery. The tombs were arranged in rows parallel to each other. My father’s grave was in the middle of the path between each row. Why here? I stood beside the Neem tree. When they pushed the coffin into the rectangular tomb, it didn’t fit. It banged against the tree. Men carrying the coffin had to position it vertically and push and pull and push and pull again. There was not enough space. People stood at another dead man’s grave to watch the burial. Midway down the hole, they managed to thrust the coffin inside. I waited for the fire truck. I anticipated its siren during the burial for honor and lament. It would be my first time to witness a firefighter’s burial. But it could not enter the path. It became a dead truck at the cemetery’s gate. Don’t look back. Walk ahead. Death is irreversible, I told myself. At the church, before the mass started, my aunt was wailing and sneezing. I looked at her. I must cry, too, and imitated my aunt. I got a handkerchief, sneezed, and then tears fell. I compared my face with her face. Her eyes were red. I was snotty. I waited for all of it to be over. I was glad when I went back to school as if I had just taken an All Soul’s Day break. I wanted to be an honor student again after months of missing my classes. I stayed at the library as early as six in the morning. Angging, a working student, was afraid of white ladies there. So it was a comfort to have me as her company early in the morning while nuns in the convent near the library were having their morning praise. One morning Angging screamed as she was dusting off the grills. It was just a frog. I was brave. It was fun to have my name written on the board like this: NOISY (-10): Hazel TRANSFERING SEAT (-10): Meghan
NOT BEHAVE (-10): Hamile I stopped my bet for making the class president list this on the green board. Everything should be perfect. I punched the leg of our sofa until my hands were swollen, and my mother heard the punching sounds. I wanted to learn martial arts to defend myself. Five guardians, I branded the top five students in class. They were the guardians blocking my success. Mama showed me a catalogue of dresses and asked the dressmaker to sew what I wanted. My graduation dress was white silk with delicate white sequins of flowers. The guidance counselor told me I would not march as an honor student. My conduct grade had been poor since grade four. In one of my pictures, my eyebrows collided. There was uniform inspection before a student could enter the campus in highschool. The pleated blue-striped skirt must reach three inches below the knee, or else, the nuns said, go home and sew your skirt. Every flag ceremony, everybody faced the grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary and contemplate on her life, and, as the nuns hoped, everybody would become like her. This time I lived by the rules imposed. I planned to fire teachers in high school. “Class, in business, what is marketing?” My home economics teacher, who always had new polished and colored nails and new sandals I saw in Natasha or Sara Lee catalogues, continued, “marketing, dapat class, alam niyo kung sino yung maa-assign na mamamalengke.” (“marketing, class, you should assign who will go to the marketplace.”) I pointed out the teacher’s mistakes during recess to my classmates. They agreed. “Physical fitness is the capacity of one to do daily task without experiencing fatigue…,” a P.E teacher who had black spot in the middle of his teeth and stood like a military in red alert read then explained, “Class, ang physical fitness ay capacity ng tao to do daily task na walang fatigue…” Meeting up with the school’s director principal ended up in open forums organized by the teachers who heard what I was doing. I couldn’t tell my mother. I wanted her to feel I was doing great. I failed in my conduct grades again. Could I have some justice? Could I just do something right?
I joined the Citizenship Army Training so I could jail students who didn’t wear school ID’s at the principal’s office. I met Primo Cruz, an officer in Davao City Disaster Coordinating Council, when the CAT Officers organized a First Aid Training Course. He was bald and wore a cap to cover his shiny head. His skin was dark brown, I guess from constant exposure to the sun. I looked for clues. Papa was glad to find out before that Mr. Cruz’s son was my classmate. Did he know my father? Did he know me? Standing on a rock near the Talisay tree, I hopped to a pebbled landscape and talked to my classmate. Every now and then, I looked for the door waiting for Mr. Cruz to come out. “Hamile!” he called out, “Kaon na!” (Eat now!) He knew me. Did he know my father rescued people, too? “Kinsa kang anak?” (Whose daughter are you?) Somebody asked once, and I knew he would exclaim in recognition like what others did, “Ah! Katong bumbero! (Ah! The firefighter!) A subject without a predicate, my late father had turned into an exclamation point as well. Now, I hesitated to give a name. I pictured that once I said, “Tito,” the happy happy nights would come to this person’s eyes. The beer was spilling on the cemented ground. Cigarette butts at the sole of one’s feet. A barbeque stick through a stomach. What if I did not call Papa back to give his wallet that fell from his camouflage shorts? Perhaps, he came back home to get it before buying a beer, and instead of going out again, he left his happy happy friends and chose to sleep beside me? Heel of a hand, I pumped a dummy’s chest. 1-1001, 1-1002, 1-1003, 1-1004, 1-1005… The monitor rose a little. “Pump harder!” a coach said. I wanted to feel any air in my cheek from the patient’s mouth. Negative. “Make it right!” the coach shouted. I felt for the pulse. Negative. I counted louder. 1-1001, 1-1002, 1-1003. But my voice just kept trembling even if I tried to control it. I had to take in my own air. I opened the dummy’s mouth. Some force from my hand just came out. “Hinaya ra nag bira,” (Open it gently, don’t pull that,) the coach said, “gisi man pud ang baba ana.” (You’ll tear that mouth!) But I did save my father’s coins. At five in the afternoon, he was still not at home. Mama asked kids who were playing outside our house to tell my father to come home. Later, Mama would send me hunting for him. First, I would look into the bunch of men sitting with cups of coffee on a bamboo bench outside Odang’s house. There were no conversations. They
just stared at their roosters, waiting for them to grow quickly while roosters stared at them, too, and slept. But I knew where he was. I would call on the Fire Station to inquire if I could not see him in the streets. Everytime I walked down Kumintang Street, there were a few doves on the road, and they flew when I got nearer to them. Some were perching on the roof of a rich man’s house. I couldn’t chase those doves like what the other kids were doing. I was on my mission to chase my father instead. I crossed a canal, and then passed beside a wooden house. Tables were lined at the back of this house. Serious people. They did not move from their seats. Sometimes one man remembered his cigarette and puffed a little, then put it at the table until its ashes fell. Papa was there, serious with his cards. I looked at him. I did not go near him. He looked up and stared at me. I went beside him. He stopped, picked up his coins and stood up. Somebody yelled, “We have not won yet! Don’t go!” Papa put his arms around me. We walked together. The men hated me when they saw me there. I asked mama if the owner of the doves did not mind if those birds would get lost. She said that doves always went home, and they knew the way back like those that I found on the street. But they would fly away if a house where they stayed was too noisy and chaotic. “Good birds! They had better initiative than most people,” my mother remarked. “Kinsa imong papa?” (Who’s your father?) I was sitting and waiting for the dentist when a man in his shorts asked my mother, “Unsa diay imong apelyido.”(What is your family name?) “Hamile” Would he point out the misplaced grave in the cemetery? “Ah! Si Tito?” I listened. “Ah! Klasmeyt mi ana sa Holy Cross,” (Ah! We were classmates in Holy Cross) as he tried to confirm, “Sa Holy Cross mana siya, O!.... Ang besfren ana kay si Dodong. Kaning Dodong ba diri…” (Yes! He was in Holy Cross, Yes! He was Dodong’s bestfriend.) He pointed somewhere, maybe a direction of Dodong’s house, “Hawod mana manabong si Dodong. Ah! Pagka-lunes, libre mi dayon tanan sa canteen. Hala.. pila lang…” (Dodong was lucky in cockfights. Every Monday he’d treat us at the canteen. Hala! Just form a line!) Yes. Dodong paid some of the hospital and burial bills. Papa
had a friend like that. Gambler yet helpful? I know the story. When Dodong and Papa were teenagers, Papa wiped people’s shoes and polished them while Dodong looked for any job so they could eat. They went to a fortune-teller. She said, “Ikaw, dong, imong swerte kay naa sa sabungan.” (You, Dodong, Your luck is in the cockfights!) From then on, every Sunday, when Holy Holy Lord God of power and might of the church choir mixed with sabungero’s voices, Dodong won. “Grabe ang madre! Makasakop man dayon kung naay mangawat sa ilang prutas!” (These nuns! They could really catch us when we stole their fruits) Really? My father stole fruits like me. I went all over the street and picked atis, guava and even cacao if they were hanging by somebody’s house as I passed by them. “Pero… hawod ni sila Tito uy! Mukatkat man sa taas sa punuan unya didto kaonon. Pagka-buntag, di, walay saba. Panit nalang makit-an sa madre pagka-buntag.” (But…Tito was very good. He climbed the tree and ate there on top of the branch. So quiet. In the morning, the nuns only found the skins.) Dodong and Tito swam in the river. Papa did not know yet he would build his house beside it years later. I heard him say once, “the water was clear.” He could see the fishes at the bottom. I wanted to go back to that time when I would not need to guess if the fish had eaten the worm in my bait’s hook or wait for the nylon string to move that signaled that a fish was caught. I could just stand in the water, cup my hands while a fish glided from my hand. It escaped my hand but not from my sight. Papa and Dodong cooked the tilapia for themselves. I would put mine in a milk can and watch it swim the whole afternoon. I stared at it as if it was my own river and fish while the fish crazily swam following the same circle of the can. Dodong and Papa were like Kuting, my playmate. From what I heard I figured out that they had mothers and fathers but could not feed them. When they woke up in the morning, they had to find something to put in their stomach. Their wounds and scars healed themselves. Their tears dried themselves. Papa’s luck was not in here, the fortuneteller said. He sold his radio, the one he hugged when he curled himself to sleep, and went to join the Philippine National Police Academy.
The sun was hot. They were walking like ducks. The rain fell hard at night. They walked like ducks while clutching their bags with their teeth. “Quit!” A commander shouted. Papa walked several rounds in the field like that. “Quit!” He could not see the way. He walked. “Quit!” He was trembling. He did it. But he went back to Davao, he told mama when they were talking about it and mama told me later. This big man looked as if he was about to cry in front of her. The officers were confused with my grandmother’s three husbands. Bad family background. They held it against him. I imagined I was sitting with him. He was telling me about it. I nodded. I told him I understood him. No matter how I avoided it, I needed to go back to the Mintal Fire Station. Could he have brought his woman here with his friends? The woman went to the hospital, I heard. The fire truck was a red monster, always dead and waiting for a fire so it could be useful. The garage rafters were almost falling. The glass was smashed and broken there before we went to the church. He was laid there for the last night of his wake. I learned all these when I was gathering historical information for my NSTP class. “Hala O! Anak ni Hamile,” (Oh! It’s Hamile’s daughter!) a man wearing shorts and T-shirt told another man. I knew they were on duty and why they weren’t wearing any uniforms. No fire on the horizon. He knew me? My father went home in shorts and shirts and went to the station in shorts and shirts. It was a fireman’s tradition. They gave me a seat. “Kanus-a ni natukod?” (When was this station built?) He didn’t know. He phoned several firefighters, “Sarge, kanus-a ni natukod atong istasyon?” (Sarge, when was this station built?) He looked up the ceiling where one part was colored gray. Rain had dripped through there. He called another firefighter, this time from the main office.
When was the fire truck brought here?
Was this man in front of me was with my father when they had to put a fire truck on the ferry to put off the fire in Samal when there was still no fire station there? Was this the man who drove that truck when they delivered water to 117, a far-flung place, to
give water relief or to see papa’s girlfriend? “Hello, Sarge…ang anak ni Hamile diri bah…..kanus-a gani…” (Hello, Sarge…Hamile’s daughter is here…when was…) Was this man with him when flight 147(?) crashed. Mama got angry Papa didn’t come home that time. But that was a simple firefighting routine that turned into a rescue operation. A simple call that there was a fire at a plane crash. We didn’t know at home where father was. He was there. He carried an arm, from someone, burnt, bloody and detached from its body. He carried mangled bodies on his back, not knowing if they were alive or not. My father, the rescuer. “Hello, bai!” He called another one, whom I figured was tending his seedlings at home, “Tubag ba! Anak ni Hamile naa diri! Tabangan nato ni!” (Answer me! Hamile’s daughter is here! Let’s help her… When was…) I rode a sidecar. Instead of turning right, it went straight down the road and reached Mintal Comprehensive High school. In front of it was the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) Regional Training School. All I remembered was I sat next to my mother and we clapped our hands as many graduates received diplomas and saluted the officer. Mama pointed out Papa. They were too many and too far from us. I could not see him, but I said to mama, “Yes! He’s there!” Outside was a police statue who was saluting in the middle of an empty lawn under the sun’s heat. It would stay like that because there was no other statue with a card that said, “carry on!” Was it true that when I was about three years old, Papa snatched an hour from NAPOLCOM to visit us at home? Nobody was allowed to go out. He stood by the door and said, “hello!” I was pulling malunggay leaves for dinner. The he said, “bye!” I pulled the leaves quickly, “Eat here!” I shouted. He hugged me. I wanted to confirm if it happened. I wanted that event to be real. A thought came to me. I told it to mama, who told it to Papa. They were both amazed! They couldn’t believe I was two years old when it happened, at ten I still remembered it. Papa sat down on a boulder. His shirt was white. He held a bait waiting for a fish. It was afternoon or maybe morning. Silence.
There was sunlight but it wasn’t hot. I held Mama’s hand as she held a cup of coffee. We walked towards him. I heard stories that Papa once fished for our food. It was true. Did that moment really happen or was it only a dream from my sleep? But they hugged me when I told them about that. For once, our life was that simple. Papa caught fish for us. nothing matters but the quality of the affection – in the end – that has carved the trace in the mind dove sta memoria Where was my memory? They were as fragmentary as this excerpt of Ezra Pound’s canto I found in one of the books I read. What did “dove sta memoria” mean? It reminded me of those doves in the afternoons of my childhood, a distraction from the task of bringing father home. I was five when I dropped my father’s signpen. I didn’t want to use pencil anymore. I wrote letters on our wall. Our house was filled with different colors of crayons. There were elephants, flower pots, and children playing. I acted like a teacher. I wrote everywhere. At the side of the door was a hole. Papa had punched it when he got drunk. I patched it with an orange election sticker I got from the street, (“Erap, para sa mahirap!”). I copied children’s poems and wrote them on our door. When our ceiling was dripping, Papa ripped one of our walls to patch it. My drawings became part of the ceiling. I dropped papa’s signpen. The tip broke. I woke up early in the morning while he polished his shoes. He wore a tie. He had his name plate on: FO2 Hamile. “Pa,” I was still rubbing my eyes. “Sorry, nahulog nako imong signpen.” (Sorry, I dropped your sign pen.) He was silent. Trying to find the words. “Mu-agi pa man kaha?” (Does it still write?) He was off to work. I later heard he told it to all his colleagues. He was proud of me. I could still feel my fright when I dropped the sign pen. It was a big deal for a child. I still felt the relief when I expected to be
scolded, but wasn’t. Then he could forgive me for wishing him dead. I could forgive him for his happy happy nights. Maybe, he was unconscious that he was hurting me as I secretly listened to his fights with mother. Despite of it, I just realized he had been a gentle father when we were together. Everything ended when the glass broke. Those shattered pieces around the coffin signified the separation of the dead and the living. I thought I had moved on and never thought about my father anymore. I failed to recognize that seizing the noise of his wake and drunken nights in my head was my only way to survive. And all these years, I was enduring it, unknowingly. I could forgive myself and save myself from my own anger and guilt. Blackout. The house is dark. I feel the table with my palm. I feel the cabinet, the wall, the chair. Familiarize everything. Some things never change. I didn’t bump into anything. Just by familiarizing and memorizing the corners and ways of the house, I would find my father and mother even before the candle was lighted. It was there, the rough and callused hand that I held when we walked together down the road, proud that my father was bigger than any other man in the street; the hand that carried mangled bodies to reunite them with their grieving families; the hand that waved goodbye because he had to go back to the training camp though he wanted to stay home to taste the malunggay soup; the ones that lifted my drawings to the roof; and the hand that clutched the bait to catch fish for our supper. My mother’s hand and mine which held the cup of coffee for him. Despite the playing cards, still he obeyed me and came home with me on those dusks, and maybe, it was the same time that the white doves were also flying back home. Hadn’t I remembered that I looked back when the glass was smashed and saw that the bottom was still whole? Still, there were memories left that kept on reminding me of my father. These ordinary, half-life yet pure memories slipped and came back to me without warning in my most typical days and made me find my way back to him. Now taller than my father, I am still waiting for the father to arrive at the door, as if a ceremony is necessary just to meet him.
I visited him at the hospital once before he died. He was sleeping in bed. I sat on the chair at his foot. I got the tissue papers and made it into boats just like on TV. He woke up. It was vague if he nodded when I showed it to him or if I had shown it to him. Aunt Jen-Jen threw the boats into the garbage can. She fetched me and sent me home. When I was at the door, Papa called me back. He asked for a kiss. I was shy because other people in the ward were watching. His beard was itchy on my cheek. I had almost forgotten that. Yes. He did ask for a kiss.
Flight Deborah Rosalind D. Nieto
You donâ€™t know this, little girl, But when your balloon flies, We both lose. Let me share with you something Iâ€™ve come to know many times over: flight is sadness to those left without wings. I dare not say more, this string of time frays. Before long, your red flying globe will be out of sight. And what little choice we have but to let it soar, two pairs of eyes as its companions, our own selves getting smaller and smaller, this moment of vanishing letting us let go.
Kuliglig Christian Tablazon
Hindi libingan. Sa halip, ikalâ€™wang sinapupunan. Mahimbing ang mga murang anyong kinukumutan ng parang. Labimpitong taon. Lingid ito sa mga mata. Tinatawid nila ang ibaâ€™t ibang rilim ng lupa at hangin. Sa tamang panahon, isa-isang magigising. Humahangos na tutunguhin ang rabaw. Bibitak ang lupa, bubukad ang mga pakpakâ€” Babasagin sa magdamag ang malaong pananahimik. Hindi sila aabutan ng liwanag. Tanging sa tunog nagiging ganap ang hubog.
Nanginginig ang paligid sa kanilang pamumutiktik. Itinatanghal ang pag-iral. Umaawit sa bingit ng kanilang katawan: Narito kami, nagtatalik, sa unaâ€™t huling gabiâ€” Sapagkat ito ang sintido ng bawat siklo. Hinahango ang mga sarili, pumapailanlang upang sumanib sa hitik ng mga dahong itim. Upang iahon ang tinig.
Taxonomy Michelle T. Tan There is a name for everything in Dumaguete. Here, clouds creep across skies that flicker into a dozen hues each day—ochre, mauve, cerulean, azure; colors that only now appear real to the mind’s eye. In this city, foreign words roll easily off the tongue, which is why a Hibbard Avenue has sprouted so close to Rizal Boulevard, why a Cervantes Street intersects Silliman Avenue. The roads stretch out like a spiderweb all across the province, linking capital to capital, nook to cranny, each corner bound only by the laving sea. The best way to travel is by bus, windows wide open to the journey’s gifts. Outside, trees rush past in a single brushstroke, all green and dazzling in the sun. Here is where you learn their names: lansones, mansanitas, marang, langka. Here is where your eyes sharpen to recognition: kamias leaves clustering at the ends of branches, mangrove roots high above soil, talisay trees in the shape of fountains, water collecting like dew on the surface of a gabi leaf. Elsewhere, shorter distances provide occasion for strolls. On the road outside the Writers Village, you spot a hand of bananas growing out of a purple puso ng saging. Nearby, beehive ginger flowers and birds of paradise grow in profusion, awaiting the approval of Manang Bibi’s shears. Dusty cement covers the road until the gate, beyond which the row of nipa-roofed houses disappears and tiny rocks form an uneven track between slopes of carabao grass. The path winds further away from the Village, toward a view of Mt. Talinis just past the bend guarded by a tall araucaria. The mountain is impossible to miss. Just follow the line of green and yellow coconuts, of makahiya plants sprouting between stones. Even in the mornings, the walk is never solitary. Irate roosters preen and prattle outside the neighbors’ houses.
Black-eared goats graze on the surrounding grass. One rainy day in Valencia, you jump on an impulse to go catching frogs. It is the middle of summer, the downpour has faltered for a moment, and the air is warm with the smell of adventure. You and Karlo begin the hunt in the meadows behind Balay Jasmine. The sky is overcast, but everything else seems inviting: cascading steps of Bermuda grass, the earth sinking beneath your feet, amor seco seeds clinging stubbornly to your pants. For a while you sneak around Balay Magnolia, hoping to catch the frogs by surprise. Instead you discover antlions buried in the soil and giddily watch them drag foolhardy ants down into their dark lairs. It is Christian who finally catches the amphibian. “Ito Mich o, palaka.” There is a picture of you and that toad in TJ’s phone. It shows you grinning proudly at the camera, hair a little messy, ponytail slung over one shoulder, neckline askew. In your left hand the toad appears to have stopped breathing. Defiantly, it stares away from the camera, but the image spells defeat—its legs are dangling in midair, its heartbeat caught between your fingers. Most other days, you attempt fewer exploits. Post-session afternoons find you arranging a thin checkered blanket under the Village’s largest pine tree, marking a yellow patch on the green, green grass. You sit with your knees up, reading a story about four sisters in Africa. On either side of you ants crawl along the blanket’s edges, crossing over the border to unfamiliar terrain— bold, audacious, as yet ignorant of fear. Moths and mosquitoes soon follow suit, hovering around candidly. In the manuscript you hold, a tiny ladybug appears atop a page about a welcoming party in Nairobi. Later, a black-and-yellow-striped spider finds its way to you through Karlo, who hands it to you on a stick and says, “We call this the star-staran.” Cicadas buzz in the distance. Lambent light falls through from above, dappled by leaves in the shape of rain, in the shape of cotton, dark branches holding them in place like so many pairs of outstretched arms. Like everywhere else in the Philippines, Negros is a place for the palate. Even now you can imagine Royal Suite Inn’s sizzling bulalo and call to mind the smoke, the aroma, its tender flavors melting in your mouth all over again, always for the first time. Manilans find novelty everywhere on the islands. On the shores of Silliman beach, you balk at the prospect of swallowing a spoonful of fresh sea urchin roe—spines still bristling on its orbed shell—but days later you gobble down a midnight snack of balut, emboldened by Hayahay beer. The empty shell has everyone clapping; it’s your first time! At
Bais the next week, you clamber aboard the bangka after a swim on the sandbar below and discover a spread of kinilaw, dinuguan, grilled oysters on the half shell, whole lechon, green bananas…to finish the meal, you crack open an alimasag and greedily pick at its slivers of white flesh. The salt has barely dried on your sea-stained fingers when you begin unrolling budbod for merienda. You dip the sticky rice roll in hot chocolate, savoring its powdery bitterness before following it up with the sweet-sour tang of ripe mangoes. Back in Dumaguete, you try pungent horse meat at Kabayuan and have your weekend fill of cakes at the famous Sans Rival. Even on the last day you do not forget to make a stop. Boxes and boxes of pasalubong obscure the man behind the counter. A bite of silvanas dulls the pain of leaving. Taste is not the only memory that lingers on the tongue. When a scheduled blackout takes the lights of Siquijor, you find another way to navigate the darkness. Between the flickering of candles, you learn to shape sentiments in the local language: nalipay ko nagkita ta, lingaw ka kauban—phrases that you end up telling everyone, insistently, on that last day. “Buotan ka,” you declare between farewell hugs, “Buotan kaayo ka.” There is hardly any time to contemplate the grass, the slope, the array of cabins. Suddenly you are swept inside the Silliman bus, for what you know will be the last time. The engine starts, the bus shivers with life, it is all too real. Everyone shouts their goodbyes. Manang Jo and Manang Bibi and all the staff wave back, perhaps less wounded by a parting they witness year after year. “Mingawon ko nimo!” you yell, halfrising out of your seat. The breeze carries your voices up to them, as the bus pulls out of the Village and begins the long, winding descent down the hill. In Siquijor, fire trees line the highway, which doubles back and circles on itself like a snake swallowing its own tail. The Ouroboros. Perhaps this is where the secret of the island’s enchantment lies. Perhaps not. Magic extends all over Negros, proclaiming its presence that summer with the year’s biggest full moon, which rises over the sea at Bacong beach like an omen, like a riddle in the night. On another shore, fortune comes cloaked in the figure of a braided stranger who invites you to his seashell garden. Hidden in a tiny barrio, the collection houses a lifetime’s worth of coral, shell, starfish; whorls and spirals in the smallest of scales, in bright colors that you had not known existed beneath the sea. Silliman also offers such rarities. At the conservation grounds you glimpse Philippine spotted deer, fruit bats, bleeding heart pigeons of the
Luzon and Negros variety. In Valencia, the supermoon looms over the hills, illuminating the forest path for the ants already marching toward Balay Jasmine. “Saan ba ito nanggaling?” Manang Jo frets the next day. “Wala namang ganito dati!” You gaze at the black ants crawling up your walls, circling the floor, floating in shower puddles. “From Siquijor,” you think. “From Siquijor.” On the plane ride back to Manila, the last image you have of Dumaguete is that of an acacia-lined runway dissolving into thick greenery. You tell yourself not to think, not to think about it. There is so much waiting for you back home. Sleep weighs down your eyelids, but still the image persists. It is one of the many you will take with you back to Manila. You do not dream. Sleep lulls your mind into an illusive quiet. The first thing you see of home is the towering cityscape of Makati: column upon column of buildings and skyscrapers, the air gray with smoke, the sun peeking from behind slabs of concrete—somehow a little more distant, somehow a little less bright. You retreat from the window and see TJ and Vida regarding the same view. There is no need for words. Somewhere, in another language, there is a term for the sadness of separation. In Bisaya, there is only mingaw, “I am quiet without you.” It has been months, yet every day you still notice tinted flowers, pointed leaves, thin branches curving upward to the sky. You have memorized their names, you know them, but at the moment no words form on your lips. Sometimes they come, two, three days later. You look again and there they are—kalachuchi, neem tree, yucca, as if you had known all along. You have learned to keep names close to you now. Manong Alfredo, Gabby’s Bistro, a tuko christened Mozart, a bird’s nest in Montemar. Dumaguete itself has come to mean much more to you now, more than the souvenirs, the pictures. Most of all, the name carries with it that sense of smallness in a world so bright, so safe, so wide and full of wonders. That feeling that you can cease to exist and the world will be all right, everything will be all right. For now you try to hold on to that feeling, keep it alive and safe inside, guarded by the names you have learned, have yet to learn. And you hold on to a promise: Dumaguete, magkita pa ta.
the panelist tells you to turn to page seventy-five and fix your heart. 76. and so, you feed your words to a hungry oncoming fog. 77. You have to breathe it in,’’ he said. ‘’Taste it.’’ Inhale. Exhale. I coughed as my throat itched and a bad taste began to spread in my mouth. He snatched the cigarette away from me saying I was never to do that again. He smoked the rest of it and lit another one. It was a quiet kind of love, unspoken, instead written down and locked away; love whose voice I kept hanging at the tip of my tongue; a love that was a different kind of lost, a different kind of loss, and a different kind of lust altogether. It consumed me, all of me. Entirely. And then, he left along with the rest of the world. The word “lost’’ then became synonymous to a kind of drowning ---to drown, and I did: in beer, in tears, and in thoughts. 78. Quiet. Quiet.
e h t t u o ws b o a l
Nathan Ming Kun Aw
Guest fellow Nathan Ming Kun Aw received his BS in Information Systems Management from Singapore Management University, where he met writer and literature Professor Kirpal Singh (who recommended him to attend the SU National Writers Workshop). Currently a software consultant, Nathan has written articles for TakingITGlobal Panorama, and continues to write poetry in his free time.
CD Borden divides his time living in Budlaan, Talamban, Cebu City and Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.
Thomas David Chavez
Thomas is currently studying for his MA in Creative Writing at the UP and brings with him a studied apathy for life and its wackiness, the source of all his fiction. He's a foodie and has put on unwanted pounds for this predilection. His profs at Diliman have convinced him he has poetic promise and so must concentrate on this form, but his first love remains short fiction. Thomas, a medical sociologist by training, teaches full time at the English Department in Diliman as an assistant professor.
Vida is a recent graduate of the Ateneo de Manila’s Creative Writing Program, where she was made to jump hoops, walk on coals, and turn water to wine. Luckily, she passed with every damn color the rainbow has to offer. Her thesis on fantasy fiction, she is told, is the longest in the program’s recent history (250 pages).
Karlo was the first fellow to the workshop from the Ateneo de Davao in a long time, and the first fellow for drama in an even longer time - making him a critically endangered species. He needs to eat a lot because he is hyperactive (though he's in denial about it). His co-fellows awarded him with the Reader's Digest award during the Director’s Dinner, for having a lot of issues.
Timothy James Dimacali
Timothy James Dimacali is a huge romantic science geek. That statement can be interpreted in any number of ways, depending on comma placement. Here are a few to get you started: ,,,,,,
Deborah Rosalind D. Nieto
Before flying to Dumaguete for the 51st Silliman National Writers Workshop, Deborah Rosalind D. Nieto was a fellow for poetry in English in the 9th IYAS Creative Writing Workshop (2009) and the 9th UST Writers Workshop (2008). She was also a fellow in the five-month poetry lecture and workshop series of the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) in 2008. She has recently ended her twoyear term as the organization’s treasurer and continues to be an overall project co-coordinator of the Sining ng Tugma at Sukat (Art of Rhyme and Meter), LIRA’s nationwide literary education outreach program that has served over 1,200 people, mostly public school teachers and students, in 22 towns. Her poems in Filipino and English have been published in anthologies and magazines, including UP Literary Apprentice (Vibal Foundation & UP Writers Club) and Lirang Pilak (Vibal Foundation & Aklat LIRA).
Michael Aaron Gomez
Mike Gomez is a writer and at the same time, isn’t.
Hazel Meghan B. Hamile Just strolling.
Christian Tablazon lives in Los Ba単os, Laguna. He has two puddle frogs (Occidozyga laevis) left in his vivarium at his parents' home in Tarlac. He likes supermarkets, satellite dishes, and New Wave music, and strongly feels there is an inherent sadness to dance-pop.
Michelle T. Tan
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.
SOOEY VALENCIA is a young turtle-writer. This is true for two reasons: (1) she writes at an extremely slow pace and (2) she looked for (read: journeyed toward, come on now, with feelings!) Dumaguete and the Silliman National Writers Workshop through her writing for seven years before actually getting there. When she did get there she was so darn excited that she forgot her name. This turtle-writer reiterates though that she is very, very, very (believe it!) passionate about her craft and will continue writing and walking through life. No. Matter. How. Slow.
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