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Cover Art by Niki Escobar Niki Escobar studied creative writing at SFSU. Her poetry and drawings can be found in various literary journals including Rust & Moth, Solo Cafe, The Womanist, Mythium, The Walrus, {M}aganda Magazine, Red Wheelbarrow, and the anthology Walang Hiya. She does work as a disability-rights advocate, and draws and inks comic books. You can find her work at www.escobar.bigcartel.com

MISSION STATEMENT TAYO Arts & Culture is a community arts organization whose mission is to advance the understanding of the diverse cultural identity of Filipinos. With its annual print magazine and online component, along with readings and events, TAYO Arts & Culture is dedicated to the creation, cultivation, and promotion of Filipino and Filipino American arts and culture.

TAYO Literary Magazine is an annual publication that is produced under the umbrella organization of TAYO Arts & Culture. We promote the work of emerging and established visual artists and writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Visit our website here: www.tayoliterarymag.com

Issue price: $25.00

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TAYO Literary Magazine © 2012–2013, Issue 4 ISSN (print) 2164–0270 | (online) 2164–0289

TAYO i s s u e f o u r


MASTHEAD >

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Kristine Co

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Melissa Sipin

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Paolo de la Fuente

ASST. EDITORIAL DIRECTOR FINANCE DIRECTOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR Web Developer

CONTRIBUTING YOUR WORK

Edward Mallillin Michael Maglalang Justin de la Torre Zenia Montero Ryan Fernandez

GETTING INVOLVED

We’re always looking for content that is not only technically and stylistically sound, but also reveals an awareness for the compelling issues that define who we are. For more information, please refer to our website.

We are looking for dedicated individuals to contribute in the following areas: event planning, public relations, finance, fundraising, art & literary content, multimedia, and/or production. Please email volunteer@tayoliterarymag.com

SUBMISSION POLICY

BECOME A SPONSOR

fiction

spoken word

essay

photography

 painting " poetry

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mixed media

$ drawing

We review submissions on a blind submission policy. The individual literary and visual content submitted is the sole responsibility of the person from which such content originated, and such content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of our staff.

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Support TAYO in ways that help us produce and print our magazine, be represented at events, and market our project to a local and national audience. For more information, please email sponsor@tayoliterarymag.com

< DECODER

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LETTERS FROM THE DIRECTORS

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ow in its fourth year of existence, TAYO has become our community’s leading publication featuring exemplary literary and art works that speak to the Filipino and Filipino American experience. Over the years, TAYO has become an increasingly global publication, with our contributors hailing from all around the world. As executive director, I’ve witnessed TAYO grow from a mere idea born out of a brainstorm session over lunch in Los Angeles to the established publication it is with a team dispersed across North America. Indeed, this speaks to the truth that a clear vision and idea—giving Filipinos everywhere a chance to be heard—can transcend time and space. I beam with pride and overflow with respect for the key individuals who help continue to make TAYO a reality: Melissa Sipin, Paolo de la Fuente, Edward Mallillin, Michael Maglalang, and the rest of our staff. Without your time and effort, TAYO would cease to be an important medium where talented writers and artists showcase their work to the community and magnify their powerful message to the world. This year, TAYO’s creative director, Melissa Sipin, hosted a political workshop in partnership with Anakbayan–East Bay, the comprehensive, national democratic mass organization of Filipino youth. In a series of five free writing workshops, she led and helped guide participants to shape their memoir, poetry, prose, or performance with an emphasis on impacting perceptions and the political in nuanced writing prompts.

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Next year, TAYO is planning to expand its focus and feature a special edition dedicated solely to highlighting first-rate literary and art works submitted by youth. Through these and other initiatives, TAYO remains alive and well, serving as a consistent force in the literary and creative world for our community. After all, we must always continue to strive to produce work “for our culture, by our culture” that will live on through the ages and serve as an artifact on which future generations may look back on and reflect. In solidarity,

Kristine A. Co Executive Director

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s cofounder and creative director, I had the honor of curating our art submissions for the past three years. Our showcase is always breathtaking. This year’s collection obsesses around the idea of place, coordination, structuralism, and color scheme, playing around with empty space and the liminalities of emotivism. In his “Pinoy Life Photo Essay,” Rodney Cajudo captures the ephemeral moment in streaks of black-and-white transcendence, enabling his photography to encompass the shifting impressions we enforce onto photographs. Ernesto Santiago solifidies similar emotive responses with his compelling paintings and brush strokes. It’s the way he uses bold, contrasting colors, affecting emotional space on the canvas. Lastly, Zivile Zablackaite’s photography evokes a multiplicity of meanings by juxtaposing images of the strange and silenced, exposing what our expressions morph into when the stimuli becomes aggressive, uncomfortable. Lastly, I would like to say a big thank you to Niki Escobar. Her cover art reveals her incredible talent as an artist, and we’re esctatic to showcase her work in TAYO. On behalf of the entire staff, I would like to thank you for your support and enthusiasm for TAYO and the arts. I hope you enjoy our fourth issue!

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ach new issue of TAYO brings reflection for our staff, and I have thought a lot about what I believe makes TAYO uniquely special. Like most of our fellow cultural organizations, we are comprised of a small but dedicated group that embraces the challenge to fulfill our mission and become a model that can be a source of pride for the community and beyond. But what I find to be TAYO’s most special characteristic is its ability to reach beyond the local boundaries of Los Angeles, where it all started. With some of us living outside of L.A., and with submissions coming from all over the world, one could assume (and rightfully so) that there are potentially more obstacles to producing this literary magazine. But art and culture are not confined to a zip code, country, or language. The truth is, Filipino art and culture are everywhere and in everyone who chooses to embrace it as TAYO has. Our readers’ anticipation of this 4th issue is only equaled by our staff ’s excitement and inspiration to present it to old and new fans alike. I’ve come to see our little magazine as a celebration of art, culture, community, and the people and artists who read and create TAYO. We might not be the largest community organization, but our reach is unlimited—which means so is our celebration. Thank you for joining us in our celebration, the 4th of more to come.

In warmest gratitude,

Melissa R. Sipin

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Creative Director

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Warmly,

Ed

J. Mallillin Asst. Editorial Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Letters from the Directors

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ART Pinoy Life Photo Essay

Rodney Cajudo

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Painting Faces

Cher Musico

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Just cuz I love you. Pure & Simple

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Lady Gaga

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Gabrielle Singleton

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Sandbloom

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White Privilege: The Invisible War

Melissa Nolledo

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Mandirigma in Stilettos

Clarisse Pastor-Medina

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Sa for Sampaguita Colorful Souls

68 Ernesto Santiago

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Colors in the Sky

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Idyllic

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Ikebana

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Splashes and Patches

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Tangled Up in Roots

Gina Sipin

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I Forgot

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Insides Series

Zivile Zablackaite

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Creative Nonfiction Rosalie

Maria Luisa Penaranda

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Sometime After 2 a.m.

Elsa Valmidiano

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fiction A Kind of Father

Lisa Abellera

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Mano Po

Lystra Aranal

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Babaylan in Playland by the Sea

Oscar Penaranda

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Grumma Luzviminda

Janice Sapigao

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Sun, Shine a Light

Lolan Buhain Sevilla

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POETRY Dreamlogs & Other Ephemera

Allan Aquino

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After Amorsolo’s Woman Cooking in the Kitchen

Rina Angela Corpus

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Cephalopods

Dan Encarnacion

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Natalie Pardo

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Passports

Barbra Ramos

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Jeepney

Shalla Yu

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Feature Q&A with Lysley Tenorio

Melissa R. Sipin

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A KIND OF FATHER Lisa Abellera

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ou wake up with your jaw jammed against a rancid-smelling toilet seat. The bouncer’s fists are pounding on the stall door, shouting if you don’t get your drunk ass out of there, he’ll call the police. You can still taste the tequila, alongside a faint trace of vomit. How long have you been out? Didn’t you promise her you’d be home on time? Wipe the saliva from your chin with the back of your sleeve and stumble past the man’s bulk. Grunt an apology. You are ashamed because it’s more than what you will offer to Faith when you see her. When you emerge from the Lucky 7, a banshee wind whips past, slapping you hard. You stagger backward. You squint in the blackness and stumble across the broken asphalt. Your boots crunch unsteadily on broken glass and cigarette butts. That last round of shots, courtesy of Danny, did you in. At twentyseven you should know better. But that didn’t stop you from grinning stupidly at your best friend and knocking the last one back. The old girl roars and spits gusts of black smoke. The engine’s uneven rumble kicks in, and a sharp whiff of gasoline fills the truck cab. You’ve been restoring the ’64 Ford truck for the last two years. You lost your much newer SUV to creditors five months ago, so the truck is all you’ve got to get around. This irritates you not because you lost the car, but because Faith’s been so goddamn stingy with hers. She hasn’t worked in months, even though the doctor said she could. But she insists she needs her car to take Jackie to the doctor or go to the store. Why can’t you use it when Jackie doesn’t have appointments? Why can’t Faith wait until you get home to go shopping, or just walk the three or four damn blocks to the corner grocer? Besides, since the baby, she hardly ever wants to leave the house. An ear-piercing screech from under the hood begins when you turn a sharp corner and continues until you reach the highway on-ramp. A belt you have to replace soon. One more thing to pay for. You’re still paying off what the insurance won’t cover. Faith is damn lucky to have you around. You could’ve taken off just like your old man did when you were kid.

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But that’s not true. Not after the nurse placed Jacqueline in your arms. At first, the newborn squirmed and fussed, her tiny lips opening to scream. Except she didn’t. They say babies can’t really see clearly, only colors, shapes and shadows. Jackie’s sleepy brown eyes widened when she saw you. Then she smiled. Later, both the nurse and Faith claimed this was impossible. Probably a little gas, the nurse offered. But you saw what you saw, and no one can take that away from you. Grip the hard plastic steering wheel and stare ahead. Concentrate on the white broken lines to make sure you don’t cross them. Check your mirrors for cops. The last thing you need is another fucking DUI. Swallow the little spit under your tongue. Your mouth is dry as if you’d inhaled cobwebs and dust. You smoked a fat joint with Danny. A short-sighted cure for your nausea and dizziness. You massage the dull ache at the base of your head. You just need to get home to Faith and Jackie. At the hospital, Jackie had recognized you as the one guy, in this fucked up world, who will be there no matter what. Unlike your own father, you’ll come to all her soccer games and swim meets. Instead of watching a ballgame from the nosebleeds, you’ll sit in the bleachers by home plate, mitts ready for that fly foul ball. You’ll teach her how to shoot from the bottom of the key and drive a stick shift before she turns thirteen. You’ll tuck her into her own bed, in her own room, every night. She won’t have to lie on the living room couch, beneath frayed blankets, trying not to listen, as her father bangs a waitress from the Denny’s off the freeway. You hear a brief muted knocking coming from the engine. You roll down the window and decide it isn’t anything serious. Your shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair thrashes wildly in the cutting wind. It feels good on your face, as if it’s sandblasting your sins away. ***

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It takes you several attempts to get the key into the lock. Finally inside, you shut the door as quietly as you can. You carefully cross the carpet, but your big feet trip on the two steps leading up from the living room to the kitchen and adjoining dining room. You stop. The house is silent. You open the fridge. A fully cooked, uncut roast sits on the shelf. Why didn’t she eat dinner? Your hand moves past the bottles of breast milk. You’ve opened one before and sniffed its sweet yeasty smell. A guy at work once told you he drank breast milk just to see what it tastes like. The thought makes you shudder. You snap the top off a cold soda, the hiss filling the kitchen. You swing back your head and gulp it down. It stings your nose and throat going down. But it works to get your head straight. You really just want to see your baby. You stand briefly in her doorway. Jackie sleeps soundly in her crib, her face faintly aglow from a nearby nightlight. You try to walk straight to her, except gravity pulls you from side to side. Stop at the changing table to get your bearings. She stirs briefly, murmuring softly. Each exhale from her little nose is accompanied by a faint tuneless whistle. Don’t dare move. Don’t spoil the scene. She‘s on her back, tightly bundled in a blanket, with her black hair sticking up in a natural mohawk. Inhale deeply. She smells like baby powder and jasmine. You fell in love with her the second you held her in the hospital, with her tiny fingers gripping your pinky like her life depended on it. Jackie opens her eyes briefly, wrinkling her tiny forehead as if in confusion, and falls back to sleep. Your throat thickens. What if she eventually grows to hate you? You hated your father not for leaving, but because he was a habitual shouter, whose fists flew out in moments of frustration. As tiny as she is, you feel so small around her, like the world around you has grown so huge. So enormous it could swallow you up. Swallow you both up. The room begins to spin. You grab at the crib railing. Then the dresser. Then thin air. You land on your side on the pink rug. Shit! you yell involuntarily. Pain rips through the shoulder you fucked up playing college ball.

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Larry! What the hell are you doing? Faith appears in the doorway, hands on her hips, glaring. I just finally got her to go to sleep! You cringe and wonder when you stopped craving the sound of her saying your name. Three years ago, you saw her as a dark, exotic beauty, with her long raven hair you got lost in, and deep set blueviolet eyes that lit up when you made her laugh. Now she rarely brushes her hair or changes out of her old maternity pants and bath robe. The sunken shadows beneath her dull eyes seem deeper every time you see her. I was just trying to kiss my baby good-night, you say, still recovering. Considering it’s after 3 am, you’re way past that, Faith hisses, when she bumps past you to check on the baby. Jackie, who stirs again, lets out a small snort and sighs. You stagger to your feet and peer over Faith’s shoulder. She places her hand gently on the baby and rocks her slightly from side to side. She hums softly until Jackie settles back into sleep. You feel awkward and ashamed, like when you’d sneak through the back door of the movie house, following behind your father, trying to ignore the glares when you slinked to your seats. Faith turns her head to you and sniffs. She gives you a disgusted look and pushes you out of the room. She closes Jackie’s door and starts in on you. You went out drinking again? What the hell kind of father are you?! Oh shut your face! You snap back. Her nagging is like a dripping faucet. A large clip haphazardly holds up her hair. She’s looking as haggard as a witch the morning after Halloween. And she hasn’t given it up to you in months. Why does she have to fuck with you now? All you want is some shut eye. You stumble down the narrow hall to your bedroom. You’re an asshole, you know that? I’m here all day long and all night long taking care of her, and you can’t be home to give me some relief? Relief? What about me? You spin around, banging your head against the wall. Fireworks explode just above your right eye and trail down your

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spine. Since the baby, nothing is good enough. You’re not even married. You struggle to focus on Faith. She stands by your daughter’s room, arms crossed as if she can stop you from getting past. I’m working my ass off so you can play house! Your neck muscles tighten with the sudden rush of heat. During the week you work for an asshole general contractor, then do crap jobs on the weekends, like laying drywall, cleaning gutters, and hauling away debris, anything to make ends meet. All she does is feed the baby, change her diapers and play with her. Through clenched teeth you add, I deserve a goddamn drink every now and then. What the hell are you talking about? You were out with your buddies just the other night. Faith throws up her hands. When are you going to grow up and be a real father? I am a father! Faith laughs without smiling. The hell you are! Donating your drunk ass sperm doesn’t make you a father. You lurch towards her, your hand curling and uncurling. Now she’s really pissed you off. She’s still jawing off when your clenched hand soars past. It lands on Jackie’s bedroom door, punching a hole through it. Get out! Or I’ll call the cops! Faith screams

at you. Jackie wakes, with a loud, gut wrenching wail. It reaches an ear-piercing pitch. You’re surprised a sound like that can come from such small lungs. A taut silence follows each scream. It’s as if she’s mustering every part of her, every bit of energy and life for her next scream. Jackie’s bleating cries crash against Faith’s hysterical demands, while the aches in your head and shoulder pound like jackhammers. Grab the keys off the kitchen counter. The living room’s large plate window shakes when you slam the door. Look down. You’ve taken Faith’s keys by mistake. Later, you’ll wish you’d gone back. But right now, the pull of rage is too great. Fuck her. You unlock her car door and slide the key in the ignition. The rubber spins and screeches underneath you. You race down the street, not sure where you’re going. Your head is spinning. You can’t remember how to get to Danny’s apartment. You reach down into the glove compartment and fumble for a map. You can’t find it so you lean over for a better reach. When you look up, several parked cars are coming straight at you. Turn the wheel. Too late. The car slams into two cars in its half moon movement, smashing into a third. Your head whips back hard against the headrest with sickening crack. Before you black out, in the distance, you hear a car alarm’s persistent bleating.

Lisa Abellera earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco. Besides fiction, she writes book reviews and blogs on creative writing. Her stories explore issues of identity, of defining and redefining self, often within the Filipino American experience, where themes of acculturation, duality, and alienation between generations arise.

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MelissA nOlledO is a photographer and digital artist. Her work has been featured in various literary magazines, ezines, and book covers and has been exhibited widely on both the East and West Coasts. Born in Manila to writers Blanca and Wilfrido Nolledo, Melissa now resides in Eugene, Oregon, with her three children.

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WHITE PRIVILEGE: THE INVISIBLE WAR Melissa Nolledo 11


FOUR POEMS: DREAMLOGS & OTHER EPHEMERA Allan Aquino

INDIOS anno domini 1521 i anchor then armor at dawn. i drag toward the shore, my thighs sloshing through the high tide. a shock volley of native arrows and spears fells a dozen comrades: saltwater reddens in early light. the last thing i ever see is ochos and flashes of pagan steel. the last thing i feel is the hotness of my blood, the sea-cold shiver of my breath. 1763 i make my way to their women. i baptize the mestizo offspring. i outlaw all blades. i make them all dress translucently. i allow them their native dance: then they break me and banish me with bastons and bare hands.

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1898 i, surrendering half the earth, would rather history gift me honor. i will not be known for yielding to half-devils who shamed me with knives and stolen rifles. so, after a dress rehearsal with american players, we make it official: the treaty of paris, a twenty million dollar consolation: we preserve our majesty. 1899 god damn these indians. the yanks can have them: i’m certain they’ll have an easier time controlling them. . .

JACOB after a war, before a rainy season: jacob, in the ochre sun of camarines norte. you walk longer roads to school to avoid the local thugs. your father won’t teach you to handle a bolo. instead, your frail arms bash the walls of iron mines for food money. later, between the cracks of your nipa, you watch the blue night. in the barangay, there is no light pollution. the stars scatter like distant prayers. still a boy, that world’s brutality drives you away. at twenty, manila adopts you, feeding on young virgins. and yet you survive, you survive: spirit-like,

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you move among monsters. and then you find and love her, a daughter of lords who spit on your kind.

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you claim yourself, everything certain in your mind. you take your wife, disclaiming this world, though it stains your hearts like original sin. you leave for america, where lies and fi xations persist, the only world that allows you to make me. old country agonies fade and you pray you’ve seen the last of them, but, now, here you are: after a rainy season, before another war.

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CORRIDO / CHUYEN . TÌNH

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i imagine your ancestor, maiden of the tr ưng legacy, lonely yet surrounded by art and honor; i imagine

we awaken, now, to alarm-free mornings, wary of endtimes’ loom. everyone yearns for the true.

mine – a troubadour, a caracoa pilot – blinded by the sun on sea waves, quelling his anguish

we, by contrast, know what the world can do: innocence is our final currency, which we hold when all else is taken away.

by writing songs for her: they’d declared themselves clearly, waiting past eternity

may our hearts march side by side, our strides in sync: even if i can’t see you

for one another: only the gods, thus, will know what becomes of their story.

again, i’ll follow you, wait for you – even in ghosthood, i’ll suffer no lonesomeness.

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DREAMLOG OF A NEEDFUL HEART a poet-friend tells me how ‘a man only loves one heart even if he had been with many.’ he calls me the chronicler: ‘for an untraveled boy, you have seen so much.’ he cribs rilke: believe in love so vast that it’ll be with you no matter how far you travel. i ask my poet-friend, for what should i write my best? he asks: ‘who makes your heart sing?’ i remember her simply, easily. i’m so scared to talk aloud. i keep my secret magic. ::: an episode of ‘face old fears’. i confess my feelings, i don’t know if you believe me, i don’t know if you’d reciprocate, if i’d fit in your heaven, or if losing you would be god’s gameplan for something better. i don’t mean for this to

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spoil our moments: to me, it makes them true:

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i love you anyway. ::: you take me here, tenderly, keeping my breath. thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just the gold arc of your profile, your eyelashes, your scent, sighs, and skin. i hold your hand with silence. i kiss you with stillness. i pray for permission, marveled by rhyme. ::: luzon and providencia dazzle under the same stars. our ancestors wind-dance, believing this will bring back the breeze and river goddess. conquistadors come to hunt them for crimes against the church. you run with our people during revolution. you defend everyone. your blood wets the volcanic grass, and though youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re immortal, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good time to die: you will rise when needed most. it is your spirit, that very spirit that runs through my blood like wind, that heals my lonesome thirst, that gives me more than the best i will ever give.

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::: everything depends on company: i could see paris four times, celebrate mass in rome, dance with wolves during ecstatic, endless weekends: if i did all that alone, what would it matter? i could walk with you in the breezy summer light of the grove, roaming our dreams’ treasures: i don’t need to scour earth for joy: i keep more than i deserve when you’re next to me. ::: awake, i gather all i’ve learned. possessions bring wealth to no one. you enrich others with your sheer self. you’re the wealthiest woman i know. i’m a rich poet for knowing you.

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AllAn AQuinO is an Asian American Studies lecturer at CSU Northridge. Though (academic) prose pays his bills, poetry’s the heartbeat of his passion. He owes grateful thanks to his peers from The Undeniables Writers Workshop, the L.A. Enkanto/Disorient project, and his many teachers and masters.

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PINOY LIFE PHOTO ESSAY Rodney Cajudo

BATTLE OF THE SEXES 19


DOMINGO

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MOPED FAMILY

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HANGING OUT


JEEPNEY GAZE

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MAAM SER . &

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MAKE A WISH


SET SAIL

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MULTI TASKING

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SUNDAY STROLL

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WE PAINT THE SKY

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rOdneY CAJudO was made in America using Filipino materials, seeking out truth through faith, art, relationships, and stories. Currently, he is writing a novel about the Philippines set in World War II and working as a producer/director at FilAm TV.

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MANO PO Lystra Aranal

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other pulls on Emily’s skirt during breakfast, and I hear my daughter say: “don’t lah, later you pull and pull then I have no more skirt to wear to school, how? You want me to walk around in my underwear is it?” But Mother pulls nonetheless and I go wipe the vinegar and soy sauce spilled on the table as Emily’s plate is filled with more garlic rice and the dried fish Mother calls ‘daing’. “I don’t want anymore, I so full already.” But Emily eats what Mother has given. It is always like this. Emily keeps eating and Mother keeps pulling on her skirt. I think she wants the hem to touch my daughter’s ankles, like that picture I keep in the living room of Mother in her old school uniform. “So ugly. If I go to school like that, people sure laugh at me one.” I tell Emily that her skirt is fine; and Mother tells her to try the hot chocolate, placing the mug in my daughter’s hands as if my daughter is incapable – as if I am incapable. Emily and I are just not used to a heavy breakfast in the morning. “The hawker center food downstairs more yummy. This one so weird.” Emily likes kopi-o and fried dough for breakfast, not this daing that Mother tells me to fry. Mother wants a home-cooked meal every morning and we have to set the alarm forty minutes earlier. “You know hor, I usually don’t wake up this early. Now for sure I no choice will fall asleep in class one. Got exam some more later.” Mother visits us in Singapore every few years, flying in from the Philippines where she lives – where I was brought up. She does not know that Emily studies past midnight, even if there are no exams to take. “Ma, can drive me to school today or not? Damn sleepy lah.” I tell Emily that she is big enough to take the bus; and Mother slaps my thigh, turning to tell my daughter to eat more of the daing so she won’t be so tired. Emily brushes her teeth instead. “Eww. I don’t want to smell like fish lah.” But I notice how Emily is starting to smell like the kitchen I grew up in – the oil and the vinegar, and the tablea tsokolate melting in hot water every morning – and it is only five thirty. I will have to check later if Emily still has her favorite strawberry-scented shampoo in the bathroom. Mother sometimes replaces it when she

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visits with the coconut shampoo a neighbor back home sells which smells like nothing. So I tell Emily to spray some of my perfume on her uniform and get her things ready; and I see Mother wait for the ‘mano po’ – for Emily to press the back of her hand against Mother’s forehead before she leaves. “So mah fan, later then I do lah.” Emily does it anyway, and Mother pulls on her skirt again. “Aiyah, leave it alone. Everyone wears their skirt like this here. You never see before meh?” When Emily shuts the door and runs for the bus, Mother asks why her skirt is so short. I tell her that I hemmed it that way because that is how girls wear their uniforms here. But Mother still tells me to buy Emily new skirts – longer skirts – and I do nothing but fill my mouth with my daughter’s leftover daing. *** There is a pot of water simmering on the stove beside the cheesecloth and the bag of coffee beans Mother has brought over. Kape Barako. I watch Mother pour water into a mug filled with beans she has crushed with the side of the knife I use for chopping vegetables. She never asks to borrow the coffee grinder or the French press I keep on the kitchen counter. She asks for a ‘mangkok’ instead, a bowl she can place the cheesecloth over and filter the coffee she has left to steep for five minutes. She drinks it black, with a touch of honey. “Remember Aling Nina, the one who lives down the street from us?” I have to skip work and listen to her talk about people I haven’t seen in years. “The one with the mole on her face! I’m sure you remember – the one who always sells things. Ano ka ba, I sent you her picture, one time.” I tell her I do not remember. She does not know how the pictures and letters she sends over gets lost in the apartments Emily and I keep moving from. “Ay nako, don’t be silly. Anyway, Aling Nina knows a woman, whose sister-in-law is dating a real estate agent. She can get you a good price on a house. It’s a good investment. And you can visit more often.” Mother still stirs her coffee the same way, moving the teaspoon back and forth, left and right in the mug.

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I offer her the pastries I bought from a bakeshop by my office; but she asks for Pan De Leche or Pan De Sal even though she knows I do not have any. “You can get a house in a good subdivision. Not like this place, so small. And you’re always moving. Not good.” I tell her that Emily doesn’t mind moving around, and she tells me to finish Emily’s leftover cup of hot chocolate before it gets cold. Mother knows I do not like the taste of her coffee, always made too strong, ‘matapang’ – as she says. “Of course she will tell you she doesn’t mind. She’s just a child.” Emily is not a child. She started Secondary Four this year. Mother does not know because I forget to write letters back home, or send pictures. “At least get a bigger place next time. Jeff rey can aff ord it.” I stand and offer to refill Mother’s cup, crushing the beans the way I know how from watching her when I was a child. ***

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I used to tell Emily a story every night before bed when she was growing up, which goes like this: When the earth was new and everything was still trying to find its place, people hung their possessions on the sky. The sky was still low enough for that – for children as old as five to poke the sun and the clouds with sticks, and for the mothers to hang their pots and pans alongside the tools the men used to till the fields. But as the years went on, the sky got lower from the weight of things, and soon, no one had to tiptoe because everything was within reach. The men appreciated the convenience, no longer needing to straighten their backs to grab their tools as they worked the fields. But the mothers hated how low the sky was becoming. The sky bruised their elbows, their arms unable to get their pestles high enough to pound the spices to throw into pots ready by their side, and supper was always delayed. One day, when the mothers finally grew tired of their husbands growing grumpier and their children getting more fidgety in their hammocks with every minute that supper was delayed, they got together and devised a plan to lighten the load of the sky. With their husbands out tilling the fields and their children fast asleep in the hammocks, the mothers went around with sticks on fire and poked holes in the clouds, chanting “ leave us be, sky, and we will leave you be!” When there was enough holes, the mothers lowered their sticks and waited for the sky to burst into rain – for the possessions of the people to fall back down on the land. The mothers all cheered: “Look! I can raise my pestle up now!” “Look how quick I can chop and stir and get food on the

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table!” But in their haste to poke holes in the clouds, they had forgotten to untie the hammocks of their sleeping children hung on the sky, and up the children went. Fortunately, the mothers were quick – as they always are – to grab hold of their children’s ankles and were hoisted up onto the sky with them, leaving behind husbands out in the fields, still bent over, struggling to find the tools that were once just right beside them. Until today, the men have kept working, waiting for their wives to holler from the homes that supper is ready, not knowing that their wives are now the stars that twinkle in the night, kissing to sleep the children who have awoken to ask for their fathers. For a while, I would watch Emily hide under tables drawing constellations on colored paper she’d leave on the underside of tables, waiting for her to say: “Look Ma, the sky’s so low!” That is my cue to pick her up from the floor and swing her around, planting huge kisses on her cheeks. She hasn’t asked for this story in years, and I sometimes find myself rearranging the glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on the ceiling of her bedroom. *** Jeffrey has not come home. He does not know where Emily and I live. I tell Mother that he is away on another business trip knowing she will not cross paths with him. “Hay nako, your man ah, always so busy. At least it’s all for you and Emily.” I do not argue and keep my back faced to where Mother is seated. I measure coffee beans and crush them in pairs. “I don’t even know why you’re working. Jeff rey provides everything anyway. Better for Emily to have you stay home. That is what a good mother should do.” My office is a train and two buses away from the apartment. I have a car, the one Jeffrey gave me years ago for my birthday, but gas is expensive and my paycheck barely covers rent, so I circle cheaper apartments in the rental section of the weekend paper and make calls to landlords during my lunch break at work. “Careful, not so much.” Mother is watching me pour water over the crushed beans. She likes things done a certain way, like Jeffrey who no longer sends money. He brought me here. Loved the honey of my skin in contrast to his, told me that he had to have me, that he will take care of me. I just wanted a way to see the world. Then, I had Emily. “Just a teaspoon of honey, anak. Don’t like it too sweet.” I stir in the honey the way Mother does, back and forth, left and right, and remember how Mother likes

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that Emily has Jeffrey’s skin: pale and yellow under the sunlight. My daughter: Emily Lim. Or Lim Xu Lin, Emily – as written on the report cards she brings home from school. Not Emily Bañaga-Lim as I had once hoped it to be. “Do you know when Jeffrey comes back from his trip? Maybe I can wait for him.” It’s been a few years, and Emily and I no longer wait for him. We’ve moved on from the condominium where Emily grew up, to HDB apartments near her school – near my budget. “He’s such a nice young man. Look at your life now, so nice, so comfortable.” I earn by the hour, photocopying and typing documents for men and women in suits and will not be paid for missing work today. I will have to adjust the month’s budget later when everyone goes to bed. “Good thing I taught you to be friendly. I told you no one can resist a Pinay who has charm.” Mother takes a sip of the coffee and does not make a face; and I know I have done it right. I do not tell her that Jeffrey has found another who is of a darker shade of honey – that I am still Sheryll Bañaga, that I am here only because Emily is here – and his. *** Because this is all Emily knows, I learn. Like when she says “Aiyah Ma, don’t be so backwards lah and just hem my skirt, can?” I do not argue and take the needle and thread from the cupboard and sew my daughter’s skirt to the length she desires. Or when I serve the food I grew up on for dinner –adobo, sinigang, and kare-kare – and see Emily barely touch anything on her plate, I do not cook them again. And when she returns from school and tells me about the plate of Hokkien Mee she had for lunch, I know to head down to the hawker center and order a plate of noodles fried in prawn stock – just until I learn how to cook it. And when Emily says “Ma, your hokkien mee so sedap!” – I no longer pretend to have understood. ‘Sedap’: yummy. I know, only because I asked our Malay neighbor down the corridor from our apartment. I do not worry that my daughter is nothing like me, or that she knows nothing about the country of my birth – the place where I met her father – because when she does not ask, I do not have to tell.

*** Mother wants to wait for Emily downstairs at the void-deck, and I go with her. We sit by the cluster of benches facing the bus-stop. I tell her that Emily sometimes gets home late, depending on whether she has after-school classes to prepare her for the ‘O’ levels she will be taking in a few months. I do not think Mother knows what ‘O’ levels are for, but she nods anyway and nibbles on the fried dough I bought her from the hawker center around the corner. I know how she worries. So when we see Emily finally descend from a bus, I stop myself from asking Mother to not wave the fried dough around. “Hello,” my daughter greets us. I give her a hug and whisper ‘po’, a word of respect I’ve been trying to get her to use around Mother, but Emily does not hear. “Aiyoh, leave it alone lah.” Mother is still pulling on my daughter’s skirt, saying how no school back home would ever allow a student to wear skirts this short. “But this is my home, what. Everyone wears skirts like this here.” Mother narrows her eyes at me. I think she expects Emily to regard the Philippines as home, like I do; but my daughter has never been to the Philippines. “So the ‘youtiao’ nice or not? Told you it’s nice, right?” Emily has noticed the fried dough that Mother is holding. Mother smiles and takes another nibble. It is nothing like the rolls of Pan De Sal bought from bakeries down the street from the house where I grew up. “Nice right? But it’s better dipped in kopi-o.” Mother nods. I know which she prefers and do not say anything even when Emily offers to buy more sticks of youtiao, running to the hawker center ahead of us. I turn to tell Mother that it gets better, that I will prepare more coffee upstairs so Emily can show her the best way to eat it. But Mother has quickened her pace, shouting after Emily to not run so fast, to keep her skirt down. I grab my mother’s hands and ask her to stay, just as Emily turns a corner and disappears.

Lystra Aranal was born in the Philippines but raised in Singapore; and is currently in the midst of writing a short story collection centered on the varied diasporic landscape of her birthplace. She recently won 3rd place for her short story “Bright Lights” in the 62nd Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

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INSIDES SERIES

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Zivile Zablackaite is a photographer/filmmaker/writer working under the name noisysilence.She likes images of all kinds and it is important for her that the created product has emotion in it—doesn’t matter if it’s still, moving, or living only in the viewer’s mind. More information at: www.facebook.com/silenceisnoisy

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AFTER AMORSOLO’S WOMAN COOKING IN THE KITCHEN Rina Angela Corpus The master painter received brickbats posthumously. Not from present-day modernists of Edades’ lineage but from known assailants armed with the feminist, if not Marxist stance. Why render the dalagang bukid as delicate, pristine, fair when she labored hard in the house, and got sun-burnt in the farms? It happened after a war that sent the men scurrying in extreme directions: the boondocks as rebels, or the cities in search for factory jobs. But in one work he rendered her, squatting low, totally taken in the act of stoking fire embers in front of her an earthenware stove. Her rosy brown face lost in the industry of managing concoctions in her kitchen, in the bahay kubo where she remains—with or without a male denizen— its most protective, its most masterful presence.

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rinA AngelA COrpus is an assistant professor at the Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines. Her first book Defiant Daughters Dancing: Three Independent Women Dance is a groundbreaking feminist research on Philippine contemporary women dancers. She danced with the Quezon City Ballet and currently practices Raja Yoga meditation and chigong healing movements.

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I FORGOT Gina Sipin

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ginA sipin is a 20-year-old Las Vegas resident with a never ending case of wanderlust, obsessive tendencies towards T.V. shows, books, and movies, and an incredible love for sleep and French macaroons.

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PASSPORTS Barbra Ramos I. if only passports were permanent a map tattooed with our lives’ trajectory marked always for free passage i wouldn’t have to wish i could stamp faces in these pages stitch bodies into the binding we would never be apart II. passports like razors passports like knives blades bolos machetes guillotines cut us into pieces before we even know what it means to be whole III. we build dreams out of paper rest our lives on thin sheets

bArbrA rAMOs is an L.A. native with pieces of herself tied tight with string to the Bay Area and New York. An alumna of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People (2005–2006) and VONA/Voices (2012), as well as an active member of the transnational women’s organization AF3IRM, she writes because she chooses not to forget.

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PAINTING FACES

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Cher Musico

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JUZ CUZ I LOVE YOU. PURE & SIMPLE

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LADY GAGA

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SANDBLOOM

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GABRIELLE SINGLETON

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CHer MusiCO expresses the embodiment of her visual artistry as an image storyteller: photographer, first; painter, second; and spoken word artist, third—although these interchange. Sometimes known under the name, Musico Roots, her primary focus has been spoken word poets, urban fashion shows, the nightlife, drag kings and queens, and live performances and musicians. Part of the 2008 Fort Worth (Poetry) Slam team, she believes expression is an important collaboration of conversation, spoken and unspoken.

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CEPHALOPODS Dan Encarnacion With the stark lucidity of a future recollection. — Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita after Bertrand Bonello’s film House of Tolerance

Madeleine—The Jewess, The Woman Who Laughs—her cheeks sliced, Then stitched into a mad clown grin, a harlequined whore who dreamed, The night prior to her defeminization, her future butcher’s sperm swell Peristaltically through his phallus, up her sex, burning torso and throat, Out her eyes. Another man would later release the sperm that she would Cry, would slide down slow across her scars into her mouth. The effect was Captivating—a filmic ephemerality that pierced and drew. Consuming in Execution, metaphorically fertile, repellently hexing. Difficult to determine If it were CGI or a pearline mucilaginous milt the director had forced into His actress’s open eyes. The opaque tears dripped indelibly real and when The bead adhered to her lip and curled in, in-between, I too could taste The salty warm sap slip thick through the seam of my own sealed mouth. We were beach camping below Mendocino at the mouth of the Navarro— His red pop-top ’68 VW camper our carapace. He was blue-blood, silver Spooned-out Connecticut WASP. Though not a hippie, he had weathered The Aquarian downpour of music and peace at Woodstock. He’d survived The squealing siren strain of pre-pubescent girls when The Beatles first Erupted on Ed Sullivan’s stage. He didn’t find it of enough significance To tell the tale of how he and his schoolmates reacted when they had first Heard word that bright fall day that the pert President Kennedy was dead. The VW camper was his youth—his mature vehicular pride shelled in a Burgundy 750 BMW with a personalized plate that proclaimed him 007 (He liked to tell me that when we went out he carried a small pistol). In that red pop-top VW camper, seventeen years before, he had driven The European Continent while a Cambridge student during the dawn Of the ‘70s. Now the late ‘80s, with me shotgun, we were having our First and only weekend trip together; first and only time he would sleep A night with me. At twenty-one, my first night entirely spent beside a Man. From my supine state, the moon shone sieved through the weave Of the coarse cotton drapes drawn across the wide encircling windows.

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Outside, the surf pushed and pulled—sculling a lulling Sisyphian drone. His head in silhouette, he straddled, sat upon my chest, then shot himself Over my face, across my lips, into an eye. It stung (my eye having never Before encountered such an assault) and, instead of relishing his display Of intimacy, I groped for anything to clean out my eye and griped that he Could have warned me. My hand landed on some rough paper towels, The kind you find in public restrooms, and with them scratched my eye Dry. I heard a grumbling of annoyance that I was loathe to appreciate His impassioned gift. With her cheeks ripped wide and her scars never Fully healed, Madeleine was relegated to performing as no more than A maid—laundering, cooking, consoling, coaching the brothel whores To provide confidence to their clients—unless there dallied those men Who wished to consort with deformities. I wonder, now and then, what Dreams people had before ball bearings and cotton mills were invented, Sylvia Plath wrote in her story “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams”. Wilfrido Nolledo, in But For The Lovers, wrote: What is splendor to a Savage? And in The Tenants of Moonbloom, Edward Lewis Wallant Surmised: They were attracted by his being behind glass. Words and Words splinter from buried passages, thrusting up, splattering against The pane. With the moon-juried misadventure in passion chalked as

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Dead, another figure fallen trapped between our tracks, our weekend Retreat derailed. The next day, in Mendocino, he stopped to buy a gift For his Japanese girlfriend (he had told me of her). I noticed his credit Card—his embossed first name was not the name I knew. On our way To find a different campsite, I asked if the name on his credit card was His birth name. He replied it was his father’s card—left it at that, tightLipped. Pushing forty years and a vice-president of marketing for the Pacific Rim region of an international corporation and he’s charging to His father’s credit. Resigned that he would mold more mistruths, I bit My doubt. We continued going south along the Pacific Coast Highway,

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The cliffs edging the ocean dropping down out my window. After silence And pulling through a high sharp curve where the sky was the only thing Visible beyond the windscreen, he blurted, “That’s the way I would want To go.” “What are you talking about,” I said. “When I die,” he explained, “I’d want to die driving off a cliff. I’d ignore the turn and just keep flying.” What is splendor to a savage? They were attracted by his being behind Glass. I wonder, now and then, what dreams people had before ball Bearings and cotton mills were invented. There was no elaboration if his Desire for an Icarian death were mere metaphor. Madeleine had dared To reveal to her future butcher, unaware of his mulled intentions, the Rhapsodical nocturne she’d reveled in that had insinuated his pertinacious Sperm. Her dream completely recounted, as prelude to their complicity, He presented her a single, large emerald. She acquiesced when he asked If he could tie her down, her limbs immobilized, spread across the bed. I dreamed of octopi, suckers pulsing my cheeks. More large-eyed octopi Surfaced an arm’s length before me, striking their shifting-pigment dance, Hypnotic in their alarm for interminable camouflage. Leathery tentacles Gripped tight my face—my gaze in the rictus of their broadening beaks. He refused to show me precisely where he lived. He had me pick him up On a street corner. To his neighbors, he could explain a visit from a cocky, Knife-and-fork adept, Caucasian frat boy, but not a boyish, pacific brownSkinned, calculating (his word) undergrad. When we’d set out for bouts Of rigorous drinking, he would insist I drive, even when we took his car. At the bar, he would strike conversation with other men, but he wouldn’t Introduce me; he said I could do that myself. They were attracted to his Being behind glass. I wonder, now and then, what dreams people had Before ball bearings and cotton mills were invented. What is splendor To a savage. Madeleine became the favorite of a client who demanded Her charms due to the violence performed upon her face. He wished

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To save her from despair. He took her to a party where she was to orgy With lesbians, dwarves and others thought deformed while witnessed by The rich. Madeleine maintained allegiance to her home of tolerance. She, With the other whores, when the brothel was pressed to close from high Rent, dissipated into the crevices of the coercing Parisian streets. On our Drive back home, he informed me he had forgotten to pack the necessary Amount of underwear changes and beneath his shorts there was nothing To keep his junk (my term) from flopping about—a timorous attempt to Bait me into entertaining him as he drove. The octopi looked upon me With the provocation of an omniscient being—the large eyes absorbing All the light that reflected off, refracted through and nimbused about me; Penetrating, scrutinizing, processing those incandescent rays to develop A relief map of eviscerating faults.

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dAn enCArnACiOn lives in Portland, Oregon. The bleak of Bela Tarr, the spare of Supersilent, and the spike of quad-lattes will palpitate his palpus. Imbibe the air, inebriate your cells, incubate the spores, insufflate the page. In 2012, Dan will be published by Educe Journal and Upstairs at Duroc.

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SOMETIME AFTER 2 AM Elsa Valmidiano

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ometime after 2 AM, I wake up with a Maori sleeping next to me, easily within arms-reach, but not in my bed. I’m in a bure with maybe 50 bunkbeds, making 100 beds in this space, closely positioned next to each other with barely any walking space between them. Maybe there are 50 to 60 backpackers at most taking up slumber in this bure tonight, and this Maori guy, maybe 20, maybe 23, decides to sleep in the bed next to me, maybe because my bed is positioned at the outermost edge of the bure where you can smell the beach, smell the sand, smell the sweaty air of this Fijian island, giving off the illusion you’re sleeping right in front of the ocean, and knowing with safety you’re still protected by a bamboo roof over your head just in case it rains. I turned 21 earlier today. Call it yesterday since it’s 2 AM now. Kim, a Canadian 32-yearold-adopted-as-a-baby, bought me a bottle of white wine tonight to kick off my 21st birthday. Nice girl. Funny, I forgot it was my birthday and remembered suddenly this Monday afternoon, lying on my beach blanket in my bikini, at around 2 PM, and the only one who knew was me. I cannot tell you why I came here. My parents don’t know I’m here. My friends don’t know I’m here. I am simply here now and the reasons don’t matter, though the fears keeping me from traveling here still remain in my head – acting as a constant reminder to be on my guard in this foreign land as a female lone traveler. I went to bed shortly after dinner, after the bottle of wine was finished, after cutting the sand to a few songs with Kim who twirled around with her arms up brushing parallel, smoothly bobbing in the air, when feeling abandoned sunk in, heavy, as I didn’t know anyone else on the island, and I wanted to get away from the crowd. I didn’t feel I fit in, without my background of girlfriends to define me as a person in these usual social environments, “She’s not no one. She is someone. She’s with us.” But I don’t have that, not tonight, not here. Who does she belong to? Without my girlfriends on this trip, I am no one. I’m just a kid, a 21-year-old, a naïve one at that, come to this island resort on my

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own, nestled inside my quiet, stoic, and observant Filipina appearance. You can’t even tell I’m Filipina. I’m a small brown island girl of some sort with long straight hair browned by the sun. You can’t tell I carry an American passport. I don’t expect you to know or even wonder these things by simply looking at me. I just carry fear and my own vigilance. So I went to bed early, and now sometime after 2 AM, I wake up with a Maori sleeping next to me, easily within arms-reach, but not in my bed. He’s fast asleep, with his headphones blaring in his ears. I think I can do something sexy, lean over in my sleeping T-shirt and panties, slide the headphones off, and whisper gently, “It’s okay, just sleep,” continue to slide the headphones off, push the “Stop” button on his walkman, smile angelically into his sleepy eyes in case he wakes up, put his walkman aside, slide back into bed, and fall asleep too. I could do that, all that, but I’m not that crafty, not that gutsy, not that smart, not that fluid, not yet. The music continues to blare where I can hear each note, each word sung of the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” a music group whom I have always found annoying, and I wait patiently for the tape to end, please God, let it end, but it’s the beginning of the tape, and I can’t wait for the last song on Side A. The Maori guy’s still fast asleep, and he’s not waking up. I look at my bare legs exposed on top of the bed, the blanket underneath me, the temperature in the bure too hot for any blanket to cover me tonight. The triangle edge of my gray panties peak through from the bottom of my T-shirt, and I wonder, was the Maori guy happy before his drunken self stumbled into bed and pushed the “Play” button on his walkman to calm his racing heart, his pumping blood, his fast breathing after seeing me there, with my sleeping eyes, my bare legs exposed on top of the bed, the triangle edge of my gray panties peaking through from the bottom of my T-shirt? Maybe, maybe not – something I’ve never thought about before. Something that could’ve been but I wake up annoyed and just want to go back to sleep. I look at the Maori guy. It doesn’t occur to

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me whether he’s cute or not. Cute is not defined by looks for me. Not at 21. Maybe for some girls at 21, but not me. I’m looking for the profound remark and I fall for that, not some cute face that makes imbecile remarks or innocently (inconsiderately) plays music blaring from his headphones to help him fall asleep. I slip out of bed, slip my glasses on, and walk out, bare feet, in my T-shirt and panties, past the mosquito netting that acts as walls for this bure against the outer elements of wind and rain. It’s never cold though, not on this island. I follow the path that leads to the beach. It feels like a good 25 steps until my feet hit the sand, the sand that belongs to the beach, right here, not the sand that was just below my feet at the bure, but this sand is different where it concedes sovereignty to the water because it’s right here, where no barriers like a pole or a miniature golf course blocks it from being continuous. There I stand, wishing I had perfect 20/20 vision, to see with my own eyes a wondrous dark orb full of stars where I have never seen satellites until tonight. No smog, no clouds, just infinite chandelier lights, tinkling from one eternal end to eternal end, and little 21 year old me, staring at the brilliance of a billion stars and galaxies with my defective eyes. There are people nearby on the beach, three people at most on a beach blanket, talking softly. To my far right, I can barely see them reclined in the darkness on the sand, their race and gender suspect, their relaxed silhouettes chatting softly and lightly laughing. Across the waters less than 25 miles away to my left, I can see Nadi and its port, its orange and red lights and the toxic dull red-brown glow of smog hovering over the city, while to my right, the flickering flames from some bonfire on Treasure Island, and for miles and miles, the water inbetween this island and those reveal elusive sparks of nocturnal ocean life underneath a calm surface. I stare at the night sky, my vision obliterated by this amazing light, when someone who’s taking a stroll spots me and stops to admire the sky with me. He works on the island. I can tell by his Fijian look and the outfit alone. “Did you grow up here?” I ask. “Yes. Where did you grow up?” “In Los Angeles. In California, where you never see

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this,” stretching my neck straight up at the sky. “I’ve never been there,” he says, like he’s missing out on something. I don’t care much, actually save him from any kind of possible inadequacy and say quickly, confidently, happily, “You’re not missing much,” as I continue to stretch my neck upward toward the sky, with eyes gazing straight ahead and nowhere else. He brings up his childhood in Fiji, and as he talks, his voice creates these pictures inside my head of a young barefooted, bare-chested dark lean boy with dark eyes and short dark curly hair, working hard under the sun, and I have no childhood memories to exchange as fear stands in the shadows of my being, acting as my common sense, kicking in my otherwise long-established guard created by Western civilization and post-colonial thinking – this man could rape me. “Would you like to take a walk around the island with me?” he asks shyly as I search the existence of a motive or simply the paranoia of one. The island is not big, its perimeter easily coverable on dawdling bare feet in ten minutes. Two seconds pass within my brain. A flood of horror. Of rape occurring. That’s it. Only it. Fear. I answer quietly but clearly, “No, that’s okay, I’ll stay here.” I am afraid he will attack me. I am trained to believe that’s what boys do, the ones whom you don’t know well (even the ones you do). What has his Fijian culture and Fijian society taught him on being a man? I don’t know, so my lessons from my American culture and American society at this moment control. “Okay,” he says. I want him to stay just for company but I don’t ask. It does not occur to me to ask. I have not yet been taught to allow myself to want him to stay. I could make the suggestion out loud to remain in this safety zone, not far from the dorm bure and within earshot of the other backpackers in case I need to scream for help. It does not occur to me I can have my own way. He goes. I continue to stand there and do not beg an alternative. At 21 years old, a female who has never traveled by herself, without family and

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friends to meet on this Fijian island, fear still dictates what I can and cannot do. I do not question it. I do not open myself up to anyone here. I don’t party the nights away to reckless drunken abandon. Since my arrival, I keep mostly to myself on the island – sunbathing, reading, snorkeling, and swimming. I must survive first, to leave this island unharmed as when I first arrived. Up until now, fear has protected me where I have not experienced harm in this unfamiliar culture and unfamiliar society. I am far away from home and that is all I know. Here, my past of having an abortion a year ago or being raped in an apartment living room by my boyfriend or the attempted molestation in the shower at ten years old, are simply facts neatly filed away in Manila folders inside my brain having no relevance on this island. No relevance to this moment. I am determined not to be that young woman whom you read about in American newspapers who was raped at the beach on an island resort, having taken an innocent walk with a complete Fijian stranger, and having traveled to this place with no companions, and I already imagine the reaction of an American public saying underneath their disapproving breath, “Tsk, tsk, tsk on her for thinking she could take on such an adventure by herself. That stupid girl.” I am determined to prove them wrong. There is no derision in his voice. No disappointment. No argument. No coercion. Just a nonchalant softness in his, “Okay,” so that as he walks away with his hands tucked into his pockets,

the last I see of him is the back of his body shrouded by beach night – his black short curly hair, his ears, his dark neck, his collar, his island flower-printed shirt, his dark elbows, his khaki shorts that fall to the back of his dark knees, his strong dark calves, and the barely discernible palms of his feet sifting sand as he lifts each bare footstep. Beachcomber Island, Fiji, October 1998

Elsa Valmidiano was born in the Philippines and raised in Southern California. Her work has appeared in {M}aganda Magazine, TAYO Literary Magazine, Make/Shift Magazine, Burner Magazine, chapbooks Artists Against Rape and Speaking Truths, anthologies Field of Mirrors and Walang Hiya, and the Asian-British anthology Same Difference. She has a JD from Syracuse University and MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College.

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MANDIRIGMA IN STILETTOS Clarisse Pastor–Medina 58

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∞ Natalie Pardo We are the few samples in this boundless population. We breathe and thrive for reasons. As to our decay, no one can surmise. There are too many variables involved to make such predictions. But sooner or later, we will vanish from the multitudes and face our true limit that is death. The mode cannot be deduced as there are countless of ways to die. Death—it said to be like a wave of frequency that will take you to the infinite unknown. Leaving you at peace and at a permutated order. And giving you a life that is limitless.

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nATAlie pArdO is a graduate of Communication Arts from University of the Philippines. She also obtained a degree in law from Philippine Law School. Some of her works have been published in the Youngblood section of Philippine Daily Inquirer, {M}aganda Magazine of University of Berkeley, and some other local publications in the Philippines.

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IKEBANA Ernesto Santiago 60

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nakem

gutom

emotions the shield you carry penetrable only by piercing intangibles

hunger there’s a worm inside your stomach that eats before you do it festers, feed yourself first before others

bagkat

madiak

to carry the strap as is as wide as the ruler of your fingers bending to sit right

hella don’t like it you were with it until a stray slapped you into an uncomfortable plan b

wayas free where what’s yours depends on others recognizing how much of it you deserve

GRUMMA LUZVIMINDA Janice Sapigao

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rumma Luzviminda worked at the McDonald’s on Fourth Street. It was one of those stand-alone stores, it didn’t live in a plaza with a family of other chain stores. There was a large parking lot that hugged it. It didn’t have a McDonald’s Play Place like the one on McKee Road where Auntie Glo once left me while

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she went to Hancock Fabrics to buy more needles so Grumma could make her curtains. This McDonald’s lived by itself, fed by patrons who happened to work at neighboring sites, like the Piercey Toyota dealership, the Sierra Inn or the local credit union. Over the years, this McDonald’s location grew darker, desolate and dirtier. Before that, though,

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BoBoy was so lucky to have a relative who worked there and gave him free French fries. Five mornings a week, Grumma walked one block to the trolley station on Gish Road, took it south to Brokaw Road, exited, and walked two blocks to work. Grumma was in charge of ice cream and French fries. I wished she was in charge of chicken McNuggets and soda. Grumma took care of us when our parents were at work. She came back from work when our parents were still gone, but just in time before we arrived home from school. Sometimes I got to eat the French fries she got for BoBoy when he didn’t want to eat them. Before we lived with her, Ma and I would visit McDonald’s, she’d give me a free ice cream cone with vanilla. She must have been in charge of free stuff, too. “Psst, Magdalena!” Grumma would whisper without any of her co-workers looking at us. Ma and I were about to leave the McDonald’s, or MacDo, as Ma would say. Grumma was handing me a small cone with vanilla. She made my name sound like a secret just between the two of us. I looked up at Ma before I took it. She nodded and encouraged me, “Kenka. Ti ice cream mo,” as if I didn’t already know what to do. Grumma was sweet. After four or five hours of shoveling fries and pressing down the Chocolate, Vanilla, or Swirl levers each shift, Grumma got to come home and cook. To get home, she walked two blocks to the Brokaw Road station, got on the trolley and exited at Gish Road. She came home smelling like the French fries she made all day. Hugging her was as great as eating after an empty stomach. I always thought Grumma was beautiful. Seeing her age was a part of seeing her beauty. She had hair the color of her shadow with a slim streak of grey like a crown wrapping her head in an up-do. She wasn’t allowed to have her hair up when she prepared any food. Grumma said she always had her hair pinned up because she was always working. At home, Grumma had the most dangerous job of cooking the meal BoBoy ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner – steamed rice with chicken skin. The chicken would not only fry, but jump and cackle in the oil underneath it. The splashes of brown rust on the oven were from Grumma’s work. After frying,

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Grumma would sit in the dining room while the chicken wings cooled. She sat quietly and peeled the skin off the meat and bone and would put it in a bowl just for BoBoy. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. Grumma was also in charge of cleaning up toys. One day, BoBoy didn’t let me nor Rocky play with his stuff. Ma always said to stay away from him when he didn’t want to share. BoBoy sat in the valley of mountains of his toys – thrown together in uncategorized piles crowding by the entrance to the backyard. I watched him make the cars crash and the bodies bang. I watched him make the Power Rangers and Hot Wheels inch closer together as he created storylines in his head and with his hands. I even looked up from my books to watch him as he left the piles stacked high to instead play with his Sega Genesis. As I read about Karen Brewer and her wedding to Ricky Torres, Grumma asked me, “Who made this mess? Whose toys?” She held a laundry basket on her hip, which was to be emptied at the wires we hung out some for drying our clothes. “BoBoy!” I answered proudly, meaning to help. “Yeah, right, Magdalena,” Grumma disbelieved. Did she think I did it? I watched Grumma put the laundry basket down, kneel down on both knees with her tsinelas distancing from the bottoms of her feet like open mouths of fish after they’d been cooked. She picked up each toy and placed them into one big plastic container, one by one. I read on about Karen’s bridesmaids on the playground, not knowing if I should help Grumma to be nice or stay still so she wouldn’t get mad. Later on, I watched her put up BoBoy’s sweat pants and Power Rangers t-shirts on the wire, one by one. When I looked at Grumma, she looked back with a long-lived pinkish cyst in her left eye in the way, possibly not allowing her to envision us little kids completely. But she labored and smiled as if it wasn’t there, the little reminder that could keep her from the big household tasks she took on but never did. I think Grumma saved her money from McDonald’s and allowances from Auntie Glo, for taking care of BoBoy, so that she could go back to the Philippines. Most of the adults I knew wanted to go back to the Philippines, to retire someday. I think Grumma wanted to go back to La Union to stay.

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She made it clear whenever some things like taxes or life insurance or retirement came up. Whenever Grumma had to give money to people she didn’t know, she wanted to go back to people she loved, people she would give up making money for, people she loved enough to work hard to go see. I found out one day when I was reading the next Babysitter’s Club Little Sister Series book, the one about Karen’s newspaper, as Ma and Grumma chatted one day in the kitchen. Something something ubbingko, dadiay sa Pillipinas. Something something nagrigat ti agtrabahowak, something something bannog. When I asked later, back in our room, Ma told me Grumma had three other kids, two other of BoBoy’s aunties and an uncle in the Philippines, all with families waiting for the remittance she’d send from McDonald’s. Remittance is a nice word for giving your bannog or pawis to your family, a synonym for sacrifice, sweat or love. How literal it was, how literal and real it became to actually work to have your family. Grumma was vocal about wanting to go back to the Philippines to retire. Ma said Auntie Glo did not want that because who would take care of BoBoy when she and Uncle Cesar were at work? That they wanted her to raise him the way she raised Uncle Cesar – good enough to get to The States. But we were already here so where else could we go but back? Grumma did just that – raised BoBoy good enough to get him to want to go somewhere else. BoBoy loved the Philippines before he ever got there. Just like his infatuation with rap music, he studied, watched Filipino teleseryes and novellas to learn Tagalog. He mimicked the adults to learn Ilokano. He rolled his R’s, yelled “arayko!” and “ni!” every chance he got. He wanted to be like Grumma, a citizen of the Philippines living in The States. “Naggumatangak ti ticketko,” Auntie Glo informed Grumma, one morning. On BoBoy’s tenth birthday, Auntie Glo purchased Grumma’s ticket to the Philippines through a travel agent friend she’d known, for what would be Grumma’s first trip back home since she first arrived in The States. She smiled so big, as if it was her birthday, too. I’d never seen Grumma so happy, her hair down and eyes wide, smile as big as the distance from La Union to San Jose. She dropped

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the oven mit she was holding to clasp her hands in joy, like she was praying and God himself appeared, like answered prayer, like American Dreams, like instead, Auntie Glo bought her husband, Grandpa Alfredo, and said that he’d arrive by tomorrow. “Hesusmaryosep,” Grumma whispered, her eyelids fluttering as if she was going back to the Philippines in her head, as if she already transported herself there. To celebrate, Grumma got to prepare a feast of BoBoy’s favorite foods. A tray of fries from McDonald’s, red soap, chicken adobo; chicken skin, practically chicharron; and then she prepared a section of things everyone else but BoBoy would eat. The dining room table was filled with trays of pancit, pinakbet, igadu, palabok, chicken apretada, King Eggrolls, King Eggroll fried chicken and desserts like puto, bibingka, and kankanen. I loved our family parties. Everyone would come and fill up that dining room – the De La Lunas from Union City, the Agbayanis from San Francisco and San Bruno, the other Lobos from Milpitas, the Fernandez family from Daly City, the Reyes family from South San Francisco – everywhere in the Bay Area. My family reminded me that I could say that I come from them. Everyone said Happy Birthday to BoBoy, but Grumma knew that the more that people came, the sooner the party would end, then the month before the flights would pass and the faster she’d be on that plane to Manila. That day, Grumma wore her best, a red jumpsuit that Ma bought her for Christmas the year before. Grumma even put on lipstick, wore her hair down, something I’d never seen before, only in the photos of her and Grandpa Alfredo. I wore a red flannel shirt and my white overalls, my favorite tomboy outfit. Grumma only got mad at me once that day, for getting a new Styrofoam plate every time I wanted to eat. For seconds, I got a new plate. For thirds, I got a new plate. For dessert, I got a new plate. Grumma wheezed her disapproval as a sound of dusty gristle losing steam. She uttered something in Ilokano, something about how I couldn’t do that if I was in the Philippines. But we weren’t in the Philippines so I just pretended we were and I ate the stray pancit noodles that stuck to the side of my slice of BoBoy’s chocolate birthday cake from Goldilocks.

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“Hey Bobes,” I called BoBoy with my mouth and braces full of cake. “Sup?” he answered. “You gonna open gifts soon?” I said before a spoonful of cake landed on my tongue again. “Yeah, Grummaaaaaa!!” BoBoy agreed. He was trained to call on her if he needed anything. He did even when he wanted to know what words in Ilokano or Tagalog meant. He did this when he could only find one shoe, dropped a grain of rice, wore his sweat pants too tightly. “Ay! What?” Grumma was busy serving cake to our cousins Isa and Malia. “Kayatko open gifts,” he said incorrectly in Ilokano-English. This fool. “Wen,” Grumma said the way Ma said when she had to do things she didn’t wanna do. “Okay, sige.” The family gradually moved into the living room where a corny ass teleserye was playing and one of the Cabiles grandpas was fast asleep. When BoBoy opened presents, everyone sat on every sittable part of the three plastic-wrapped and covered couches. Everyone got him toys: more Power Rangers villains, Hot Wheels cars, plastic guns, water guns and Nerf guns. One auntie even got him a Discman, no batteries though. With each gift, the gap in his mouth where teeth should have been widened and widened. BoBoy was the kind of kid who grew up without hiya, the kind of hiya that prevented shit like when he received a pair of jeans and two t-shirts for gifts: BoBoy tore off the bow the way he opened Pepsi cans, quickly without thought to force; he ripped through the wrapping, crumpled up the exact part of the wrapping paper that stuck to the gift tag in his palm, threw it to the side of him that sat opposite to the trash bag placed there for the purpose of preventing a mess and found what no new tenyear-old wanted ever, especially not for their birthday as a gift. He lifted up the white collared shirt the way Rafiki in the Lion King held up Baby Simba and pronounced, “What’s this? I don’t want this. Haan ti kayat.” He said it so that all family, Philippine- or American-born members could understand his disgust. My eyes widened at the spectacle, if he

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didn’t want it then what the fuck was he thinking and why didn’t he have a sense of hiya? He brought out the Ma in me that wanted to say, just as overtly, “Are you not ashamed?” The following events happened at the same time: 1. Uncle Ono, our bachelor Uncle from Hawai’i on someone’s side of the family put his hands up in front of him, as if to stop the horror from happening more, and said, “Oh, no no no. It’s okay. Just, uh, use if you want.” Uncle Ono was sweating. He didn’t have any of his own kids, much less a son, much less a son like BoBoy, so he didn’t know not to get him clothes. Uncle Ono’s hiya dripped down his coffee grind-colored forehead. 2. Rocky sat next to BoBoy and nudged him with his left elbow. “What are you doing, son?! Don’t say that!” he warned with his older brother hiya. My brother’s arms gesticulated a large V-shaped that emitted his shock. 3. Auntie Glo laughed as she hunched over the dining room table full of food, trying to eat her way out of hiya. She picked at the pinakbet with her fingers, searching for okra to lay on top of her rice. “Ay, BoBoy!” she started to talk through her teeth and smile, “We’ll talk later, okay?” She put her plate down on the seat of an empty chair and she wiped her hands at the sides of her clothes. She walked up to Uncle Ono’s right ear and said something something pakawanak, that BoBoy probably didn’t mean it, that he knows better but that it was his birthday. Uncle Ono just nodded and chewed on his right thumbnail. At that moment, Grumma sat down on an ottoman. She was finally done cooking and could join us for what now looked like BoBoy’s last gift. Her hair was now up and pinned with no stray hairs, her red jumpsuit jacket was zipped further down to reveal a white thermal, the kinds she wore to sleep. When she sat, she crossed her ankles and placed her left hand above her right in her lap. She watched BoBoy with the last gift – a thick, long white envelope. It was probably just money. I didn’t wanna stick around for it, but BoBoy was already tearing at the sides. He fanned the torn envelope back and forth until a few rectangular sheets of paper flopped out

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onto the carpet. He picked it up carefully and held it between the light and his face. The rest of us family members could see the back of the sheet he held, printed with a Philippines Airlines logo! We all knew before BoBoy knew. He studied the print facing him as some of the aunties already congratulated BoBoy for something he hadn’t yet discovered. “What’s going on, dude?” BoBoy was confused. “Oh my God, dude!” Rocky screamed in sudden excitement. “You’re going to the Philippines!” He took the ticket out of BoBoy’s hands. “San Francisco to Manila, August first! Whaaaaat!” BoBoy hoisted himself up from sitting cross-legged on the floor. He stood up quickly and pretended to taunt the audience of family members like he was a wrestling superstar who had just defeated a beastly opponent. He pelvic thrusted his hiya out of the room. He eventually walked up to Auntie Glo and hugged her. I smiled when I saw her hug back, and we all looked at Grumma when she said, “Now you can watch your Grumma, make sure she comes back to us! Haha!” The room roared when she announced this. I cleaned up some of the scrap wrapping paper that BoBoy hadn’t bothered to pick up. Everyone went back to talking about cheap new houses in Las Vegas, insurance policies, how well the 49ers were doing that season, family fodder that mattered. I heard everyone as I watched them simultaneously ignore Grumma’s reaction. When she sat, she crossed her ankles and placed her left hand above her right still in her lap. “Hesusmaryosep,” Grumma whispered slowly this time, her eyelids fluttering as if she was going back to the Philippines in her head, as if she already transported herself there. Later that night, Ma gossiped with me in our room. For Auntie Glo, letting Grumma go to the Philippines with BoBoy as her main carry-on was the only way to ensure she’d return. Auntie feared that the bills, plans, caring for BoBoy would all fall onto her lap. Grumma had planned to go back home by herself. She wanted to see her husband Alfredo, whom she had petitioned to come to The States years before Rocky, BoBoy or me were even born. She might not have come back, she might not have gone

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back to work at McDonald’s or for Auntie Glo or some other place that didn’t overwork her at her age. Auntie didn’t give Grumma the chance to make her own decision. It seemed like Grumma did not get to tell her own story of what happened because what happened was determined for her. How sad it is, that the course of your journey removes your hands and heart from creating your ending, or even worse, alters or inhibits your imagination to a psychological blockade in the form of your fat, naïve grandson. Now, BoBoy takes care of Grumma. Years later and the years of carrying BoBoy wherever she went was starting to show with her inability to walk for more than a few minutes and a gradual blindness that led her to find faith in the softness of BoBoy’s palm. How Grumma spent her liveliness raising BoBoy, how BoBoy spends his youth caring for his grandmother. How hiya is the duty to take care of each other despite dreams. How hiya is in charge of Grumma. We took Grumma and BoBoy to San Francisco International Airport on a Sunday night. The night before, Grumma packed both of their bags while Auntie Glo tried her hand at making her own dinner. Everyone crammed in Uncle Cesar’s big family van, fit for all twelve of us and the three bags Grumma and BoBoy were taking to the motherland. Whenever we went to SFO, us kids would always see who could first point out the Philippine Airlines logo on a hangar from the 101 freeway. I knew we were almost there when I saw signs for the hilly city of Millbrae, so I usually won that game. At the airport, us kids let the adults talk with gate agents at the check-in counter as we sat on top of the carry-on luggage. “I hope my Grumma takes me back,” BoBoy wondered out loud. “What do you mean? You’re coming back on Labor Day Weekend,” I answered back. “Grumma wants to stay in the Philippines. But I can’t come back here by myself. I might go to school there,” he confessed. “But don’t tell anyone, my mom doesn’t know yet.” Rocky’s eyes widened, like they were about to pop and the only thing keeping them in his head were threads of nerves, “What do you mean? Who am I gonna play Sega with?”

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“Play with Magdalena,” he bursted, about to laugh. Jerk. “Grumma doesn’t wanna work anymore. So I don’t know what’s finna happen.” I people watched as BoBoy and Rocky plotted ways to see and talk to each other during BoBoy’s month-long hiatus. They talked about time zones and cousins BoBoy could see while he’d be in the Philippines. I stared closely at other families sitting with Balikbayan boxes, luggage and any other worries in a rental cart. Eventually, all of the adults walked up to us, swooped the luggage we sat on and guided us towards the security checkpoint where Grumma and BoBoy would process to find their terminal. BoBoy was really his grandmother’s grandson, raised to follow under the hand of tough

instruction and trained to locate the lesser struggle. BoBoy held Grumma’s right hand as they walked into the dawn of their vacation. “Okay, bye-bye, kiss-kiss,” Grumma Luzviminda kissed me with her nose pressed against the side of my lips and cheek. When she kissed me, she inhaled powerfully, as if this was her way of taking me with her, too. As if she did take a part of me that hasn’t ever returned, as if she left our reunion in the Philippines, or somewhere intangible at the time, like I’d need to work for it if I wanted it back. And I’d better have said farewell or goodbye or see you later or alis na kami because if I didn’t, then I’d never find the peace I always wanted her to have.

Janice Sapigao is a Pinay poet and writer born and raised in San Jose, California. Her work has been published in various literary magazines. She is a VONA alumna, radio show host, and cofounder of the Sunday Jump, an open mic in Los Angeles. She is working on her MFA at CalArts and her manuscript, Where Did You Get All Those English From? Visit her website: www.janicewrites.com

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SA FOR SAMPAGUITA Clarisse Pastor–Medina

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ClArisse pAsTOrMedinA, who signs her artwork in Baybayin as “Kináng,” is a selftaught artist and a transplant from the Philippines to the SF Bay Area. She is most dedicated in paying tribute to her beloved “kababayans” and all Filipinos in the diaspora by promoting and preserving the Philippines’s very rich cultural heritage in her visual memoirs and personal expressions via Filipiniana and Baybayinthemed coffee paintings. More information at www.clarissepastormedina.com

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BABAYLAN IN PLAYLAND BY THE SEA Oscar Penaranda “Rosebud… A girl’s name? You wouldn’t think that a man in his dying breath would mention someone’s name out of the blue after fifty years, would you?” “Well… you’re pretty young, Mr. Thompson. A fellow would remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’ d remember. You take me. Crossing the ferry to Jersey one late afternoon in 1896, I saw a girl with a white dress and a white parasol. Just for a second, it was. Don’t think she saw me. But I bet that a month does not pass by that I don’t think of her.”

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he stupidest thing that the city of San Francisco ever did was to get rid of Playland by the Sea, with its Funhouse Fat Laughing Lady with freckles and red hair, its grand towering Ferris Wheel, and the formidable Salt and Pepper Shaker Loop, where a teenager once discovered too late not to have anything in one’s pockets because they will all fall down—coins, pens, whatever, when the ride turns you upside down violently and fearfully. Hot dog stands steaming in the night. The carnival atmosphere everywhere. The various sounds of laughter floating in the air. It was a mini Disneyland right across the misty Pacific Ocean, the Great Highway and the Cliff House, a turn-of-the-century restaurant made of brass and dark wood. Unfortunately, Playland was swallowed up by the waves of greed. Speculation, they called it. So they closed it down, built apartments and condominiums instead to make more money. Joy subsided quickly like the foams from among and along those silver-crested waves. No more mermaids beckoned from the sea, where once it shimmered in the summers of the City. The area now is a very quiet place and deserted. Lonesome winds frequent

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— Mr. Bernstein from Citizen Kane, 1941 it. Those apartments and condominiums have never been fully occupied. In due time, desolation took over the place and no children were ever seen near it. That was the day the magic died in Playland by the beach. Songs and stories would be the only remnants of those days. This is one of them.

Priday Night Walker called his trusted friend Amador one day during prom season and told him to get ready for a double date that he was arranging. “You gotta go on a double date with me, pal,” he said with his phony Texas accent. Priday Night Walker was a Filipino mestizo whose white father was in the service and found himself growing up right in the heart of Texas, of all places. His father was transferred to San Francisco only 6 years ago. He got to know everybody fast. He was a very social guy as you can tell by what folks called him. “I don’t got a date,” Amador reminded him. “I know that,” answered Priday quickly. “I don’t know why. You got the looks. Look at me…

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Pri-day Night Walker…” “No, thanks.” “I just don’t know what it is they see in me, but…” “It ain’t the looks, that’s for sure.” “But I always got a girl, right? And seein’ that I knew you wouldn’t have one, and seein’ that the prom is already this Sarday nat…I got you one.” He was right, the fucker. Compared to Priday’s social life, Amador felt at times that he would languish in loneliness for the rest of his obscure life. It seemed that the parents of Priday’s date wouldn’t allow her alone with him. Amador did not know whether the parents had heard of Priday’s reputation. They would however permit her to go on a double date with her girlfriend, a family trusted companion, who would turn out to be Amador’s blind date. “We’ll spend for everything,” Priday told Amador. “I’ll take care of expenses,” he said. “What about for the date?” Amador asked. “Not the expenses that don’t involve me, pare. You gotta cough that up yourself, brother. I’ll just provide the merchandise. You gotta pay for the maintenance. Don’t be kuripot, man. C’mon, you gotta fork out something. Show some class, man. You’re buying her a corsage, right?” Amador, the ever-accommodating young man of seventeen, said, “Yes, of course.” Amador himself had just graduated. His graduation celebrations and activities were nothing to brag about. In fact, it was nothing at all. Period. Just a kiss from his mother and a controlled smile from his father. He had not gone to his school prom, though the priest, his Saint Ignatius High School English teacher, had offered him a couple of names from his list of Mercy High School girls. The same priest had procured him one before on the Sadie Thompson Dance. Her name was Anne Farmer and her straight, long, red hair still had him remembering. The truth is that Amador had hinted to his Mom about going to the prom, but she picked up on it right away and said, “Nating doing! No money for all dis kalokohans. It’s not enough that you go to the most expensive school in San Francisco. You have to pick the most expensive event pa!” “Ma, this is the prom. And I didn’t pick the

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school. You guys did.’” “Not me,” she said and cast a furtive glance toward his father who was reading the newspaper while watching the news on the television in the sala, as he, with his Giants baseball cap on, was listening to the baseball game on the radio in the kitchen. “They’re paying for the whole thing, Ma.” “Who are they, ha?” “I guess their family, Priday’s girlfriend’s family, or her girlfriend’s family. I don’t know. All I know is that I, I mean we, I mean you, are not paying a centavo, Ma. Wala. Libre lahat.” “Siyet,” she curtly said. And he kissed her on both cheeks, making gigil noises and grabbed her shoulder and started massaging it and shaking it until she wrinkled her forehead and started screaming for him to stop. “Hoy! Hoy!” And laughing he slowly let her go. “Siyet,” she said again, regaining some control and fi xing herself up.

The ride after the prom was rather quiet. He had danced with his date, Maria, a few times. He should have danced more, he knew, but it was too late now. Priday pulled over by the diner with the big Dachshund hot dog on top of it by 48th Ave, near the Great Highway. Priday and his prom date quickly disappeared into the Laughing Lady’s entrance gate, leaving the two alone. Amador and Maria sat down at a small eatery. As they were ordering food, Amador started noticing Maria. And he started listening well to what she was saying, as he slowly chewed on his fish and chips with a sprinkling of vinegar. The jukebox was playing, “Sally Go ’Round the Roses,” and she was humming and oo-oowing a bit. They finished their meals and smiled at each other as the Rocky Fellers were busting out “Killer Joe.” They walked outside into the lights-studded mist. They walked somewhat awkwardly through parts of Playland to cross the Great Highway onto Ocean Beach, passing the Laughing Lady, the dart and balloon games, the shooting galleries, and the cotton candy wagons, till they confronted the giant Ferris Wheel with all its lights and colors and slow, creaky turning. Everything must have been turning in

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Maria’s mind too, because she suddenly said, “Someday, I’ll have my name in lights. Keystone Korner, Black Hawk, Blue Note. You never know, right? Why not?” “Sure, why not?” he said. “You’re a good singer. I can tell by your humming you got soul. I can’t sing, but I can tell soulful singing.” “To sing, I think, to really sing your own, you gotta do it with passion. But you gotta have a broken heart or two under your belt to have that passion. I think. I don’t know what I’m saying.” She looked up at him smiling a bit and took his arm to cross the street to the ocean’s side. She was looking up at him and beyond him, at the sky, with white-edged clouds bathed and drifting by the silvery moon, sea wind blowing, foaming waves pounding, her chiffon dress puffed billowing with the billows of the sea. After they crossed, he said, “Maybe you can teach me to sing. Think it’s possible? Can anyone learn? I’m pretty hopeless. I might scare away all the mermaids into singing off tune.” “Nonsense. Anybody can sing. My niece is toned deaf and I taught her.” “Wow, you’re a teacher too. You’re gifted.” She looked at him straight and clear and kindly. They were stepping on sand now. “You’re the gifted one.” She was looking through him, beyond him, into the moonlit sea. “You’ll write about us and someday people will read them and someday, maybe, one will come to know someone like me. You’re the gifted one.” She moved a little closer to him and walked in his rhythm, taking bigger steps. “The waves, the ocean, the sea, will wipe them all out immediately, but the spirit of our footprints will still be in these sands because you will write about them. I can tell. I know a little bit about you before from Priday and them. Research is good, right?” “When before, or before when?” “Before before pa.” “Wow! A budding private investigator too. 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaii Five-O, female Ponce Pons!” “More like Paway Five-O. I’m Ilokana. My mother’s Tagalog, though. She named me after the legendary Maria of Mount Makiling because I was born in the calm right after a storm. I like to know what I’m getting into, of course, before I jump into

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anything. With a practical and desperate friend like Priday, one has to excavate a little oral history on his double date choices,” she smiled, her red lips accentuating her scarlet and gold shawl. With a slight change of tone she said, “You keep writing. You keep us alive.” “That’s funny,” he answered. “Everyone tells me to dream another dream, to stop writing. I’ll be broke all my life, they say. No one is interested in reading about Filipinos, especially Filipinos, they all tell me. Don’t know if I should even consider it now. My own family…” “Consider it? You talk as if you have a choice. You don’t. And you’re good. I read some of your poems that you write for your friends to the girl of their dreams, or the object of their lustful affection. Some are too good to send away. I hope you keep all of them.” “Yeah, some of them won’t appreciate the poems, huh?” “Oh, they’ll appreciate them all right. Every one of them. A girl appreciates those things. But not necessarily for the same reasons.” “Really? Do they know it is not from their aspiring suitors?” “Of course, they do. C’mon, they all know they came from you.” “I’ll make sure to keep them all from now on.” They took off their shoes and started laughing. He tried to carry her pair but she would not let him. “It’s all right. I’ll carry them. They’re my shoes, after all.” The night was all asplash in spindrifts brought by the wind and waves. They strolled on the sands of the silver-laden seascape. He noticed the moon, though not yet full, was bright and it made his gaze wander towards the horizon. It was during this gaze that a strange surge of romantic feeling overwhelmed him. It was prom night after all, and he suddenly swept Maria off her feet and scooped her up, carrying her as they both almost fell. Regaining his balance, he continued carrying her, trying to keep up a conversation. He noticed the silveriness of things as the moon momentarily got in his eye. It took his attention for a split second and then that was all because a wave, a gigantic one, rose like a monster from the sea and it was heading

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straight for them. Terror-stricken and instinctively obeying the most formidable human urge, that of self-preservation, he forgot everything and ran away from the great wave, toward the Great Highway. But of course, he forgot the bundle he had in his arms a few seconds ago, the object of his romanticism. He looked down at his empty arms and looked back and saw Maria squirming to get up from the water’s edge like a cockroach on its back trying to get right side up. Coming to his senses, he rushed to her, shouting apologies before he even got to her and picked her up. “Not just our footprints, now,” Maria said laughing, “but my body prints too,” while brushing off the sand and water from herself. “I was shaking like a cockroach out there.” “Or a mermaid,” he said. When he had gathered her in his arms safely and things started to look right side up again, he clumsily added, “You’re a wise one. With a hell of a sense of humor, too.” “But you,” she touched both his hands and turned them palm up, “with these soft hands, are the gifted one. Remember that.” “You’re all wet?” “Just a little.” “Wanna go back to the diner and change in the bathroom?” “Change to what, my slip or shawl?” and

then she thought for a while. “Why not? I’ll just put my coat over it. C’mon. No. Let’s go in the Cliff House. I’ll change there.” When she came out of the Cliff House, she came out all colorful and babaylan-like. She looked like she belonged in the rich, classy Cliff House by her carriage and posture, yet she did not belong in the Cliff House by her splash of many colors, too bold to neatly fit the ambiance. Biblical yet pagan. Folkloric, yet modern. He never saw her again. And to this day, hard as he might try, he cannot remember an iota of whatever happened to Priday and his date that prom night when he used him as an excuse to satisfy Priday’s concupiscence. His lustful teenage loins. The only thing he remembers clearly of the actual prom itself was that he bought her a lavender corsage, which reminded him of that corny song of which the only thing he liked was its title, “Lavender Blue.” They both trembled at his pinning the orchid above her left breast. They must have driven home that night to end the date, but he has no memory of her at all after that night she came out of the Cliff House. They must have said, “Good night,” but he does not remember if he kissed her or not, nothing, that unmentionable, for some, that dreaded moment, the prize of the prom—that goodnight kiss. No memory of it at all. Just the ocean, the beach, the moon, the wind, the Cliff House, the steaming smell of hot dogs, burnt cotton candies, and Playland by the Sea that disappeared into the mist and recesses of San Francisco history, but not from memory, at least not from his.

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OsCAr penArAndA was born in the Philippines and has been a longtime resident of the Bay Area. Oscar is a writer, poet, activist, veteran teacher, leader, and holds a master’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University. His work has been widely published. Recently, he received the prestigious Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas Award. The award typically goes to Filipino writers based in the Philippines. A few Filipino Americans have been honored, such as Bienvenido Santos.

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JEEPNEY Shalla Yu Classical music blared from the speakers of the jeepney that passed me by. It moved, zig-zagging on a rather straight road Behind me is a cliff, open, beckoning. I am not afraid of falling into it, if that is the only way I can get to the happy jeepney quickly. “Do I jump?” I loudly asked the night. “No, you fly, because you are not here.”

sHAllA Yu is 19 years old and from the Philippines. Her pen name is Rainy Martini. It’s been a decade since she has fallen in love with writing. She has been published in Tsuki Magazine and one of her photographs has appeared in A Day in the World. When she’s not coming up with new poems or stories, she blogs, paints, and improves her photographic skills.

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IDYLLIC Ernesto Santiago

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ernesTO sAnTiAgO lives in Athens, Greece, where he enjoys photography, painting, and writing poetry. He attended Kiev State University in Ukraine. He is Filipino.

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ROSALIE Maria Luisa Penaranda

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ho is the mother?” the old surgeon asked as he walked slowly towards our family gathered in the waiting room at Mt. Sinai Hospital. I raised my hand as the tears rolled down my eyes. Some of us stood up relieved to see the doctor from the operating room. He came to me and with a sympathetic sigh spoke quietly of the diagnosis. Michael, Rosalie’s new husband, stood beside me listening intently. It was three o’clock in the morning and the long eight hour brain surgery drained us all of energy. It was a shock to me and to all who knew Rosalie to hear of her sudden loss of consciousness. Several tests performed by the doctors revealed a fast growing tumor in the brain. This is a young bright woman, newly married and so full of life, who was having to undergo a major crisis in her life. Why is this happening? I wondered. Sometime around summer of last year, Rosalie had called from New York to ask for my blessing. She told me that she had met Michael at work in New York and they had been seeing each other for three years now. Rosalie had mentioned in previous calls that she was dating a fellow from Pittsburgh and that it was serious. “And listen, Mom, there’s something I can’t wait to tell you,” her voice trembled with excitement. “Michael wants to ask for Daddy’s blessing and meet Angela and Claudine.” Rosalie was bubbling over with happiness. I felt a sweet tinge of joy as she went on to say that they wanted to go to the Philippines so her father and her sisters could get to know her future husband. “We want to have the wedding there, Mom,” she said. “So get ready to see the family again.” I laughed nervously. Her younger sisters, my daughters, Angela and Claudine, were left behind and lived with their father when I immigrated to the United States taking with me the two older children. Rosalie, at nine years old, and Michael Dominic, at eight years old, were big enough to travel. The two babies left behind were not. Because of the

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separation, we became worlds apart, almost like strangers now. They had grown so fast, away from me. My few trips to the Philippines could not fill the gap. I’ve missed so many happy memories and holidays with them. All I could do was love them from a distance and send strings of letters and a few gifts. I was quiet and thoughtful for a few minutes. Bittersweet memories flooded my mind. “Are you still there, Mom?” Rosalie asked, interrupting my sad thoughts. Thoughts of that day when I had to send Rosalie and Michael Dominic back to live with their father. It was a form of sacrifice on my part to have them reunited. I believed that the two older children would greatly benefit by having a father in their life. Growing up in America is difficult especially for two teenaged kids. After six years living with me in New York and Las Vegas, they were back under the support and protection of their father. Unlike me, I chose to continue to live abroad and have a new family in California. “Yes, I’m still here.” I was so excited. My baby was getting married! As I put on my merry mood, I realized that old heartaches would always be there no matter how many years had passed. We talked about how beautiful Princess Diana looked on her wedding day when Rosalie called to update me on the progress of her wedding arrangements. She had a lot of help with the logistics but still wanted to know from me if magenta was a nice color motif for the bridesmaids. She also mentioned how her father had been supportive and how much they all loved Michael. Six months later, I was traveling on a plane to Manila with my daughter, Milena. Despite my anxieties, common to people going back to their motherland, I was comforted again by another daughter. “ I’m so happy for you, Mommy. You will see your children again,” she said with a smile. Surprised by her sweet remark, Milena, my American born child, reminded me of Rosalie’s sensitivities when she was a little girl. Rosalie sobbed in my arms and said she would miss her father and sisters when I told her of the divorce and that we

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were not going back home to live in the Philippines again. Since then, Rosalie became my pride and joy along with Michael, my son. They were the reason for my staying sane and strong. The picturesque church was crowded with family and friends including Michael’s large Irish family who came across the Pacific Ocean. All were in a happy festive mood. It was a perfect day for a wedding. Perfect balmy weather. The bride looked beautiful with her handmade gown of Pina Jusi, fiber made of pineapple, and the happy groom looked elegant with his white Barong Tagalog, the Philippine national shirt for men worn on formal occasions. The native motifs and artifacts, the horse and carriage for transportation, were recorded by professional videographers and photographers. Nothing was left undone. It was a joyous occasion for all, especially the bride. As I recall her hair reaching down her waist, she added, “I just cut my hair real short like yours and can now wear bright bangly earrings like you, and could you bring me some shorts and nice cute tee shirts too? Please, Mom, don’t forget to pack yourself too, okay?” We giggle as our conversations always ended with laughter and plans for the future. Back in New York City, the newly married couple took up residence in a comfortable apartment, excited to begin life together. Rosalie, at 28 years old, was hoping to have a child. Then the unimaginable thing happened. I received a call and had to leave immediately for New York City. There was an emergency situation with Rosalie. She was hospitalized and unconscious. “Did she have any symptoms, like a headache or did she fall or have an accident sometime when she was younger?” asked the doctor. “No, there were no headaches that I know of and no fall nor accident,” I said. “Well, we were able to remove some part of the tumor. The rest that is left, we can dissolve with radiation and chemotherapy. We did not want to go deep into her brain tissues for fear that we might impede on her other faculties. You all go get some rest. Rosalie is sleeping soundly and you can see

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her tomorrow.” The doctor’s news was all that I could hang on to. He said that Rosalie did very well with the surgery. I was thankful for that. Michael told Rosalie’s father and sisters, “You all stay at my place and I will be with Rosalie here at the hospital.” He picked up his bag and walked toward Rosalie’s room. Rosalie’s father and stepmother flew in from the Philippines. They looked tired and jetlagged. Eventually, I went back to my mother’s apartment in Queens, Astoria to get some sleep. I was thankful again to have a place to stay.

“Hi Mom, how are you?” a voice I recognize as Rosalie, speaks after I’ve picked up the phone. “I’m okay,” I answered. “How about you?” I waited with disbelief. I was awakened from my deep sleep, her voice so close to me that it felt so real. “I’m fine,” she paused, and then said, “I’m happy here. You take care okay! Love you. Bye,” and she hung up. At that moment, I sensed a light wind of air pass through my ear just like that sad afternoon. It was the same whisper that I heard and understood as a message of love, assurance and strength. I began to think back of those long ordeals my family and I went through. They are now my memories, memories that will never go away.

For the next twelve months, the young couple’s life went on a roller coaster ride. There were endless doctor’s appointments and tests. Days and months were filled with chemotherapies and radiation treatments. Rosalie’s health went from good to bad and then to worse. She got sicker and sicker after every treatment. Some days she felt better but soon would be sick again. Despite her present condition, we were confident that Rosalie would pull through. The family hoped and prayed for a fast recovery.

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During all these challenges, we laughed and cried at the same time. We talked and talked until the wee hours of the night. Her body slumped weakly on her bed and her head shaven still exuded energy for life. She had something to say for each member of the family. Her stories of her abuelo, her grandfather, always brought warm responses from us all. It was my father who never stopped to visit my children even when I was not there for them. My father’s presence was a reminder of me. He was, without a doubt, the bridge that kept the family whole in many ways. “Abuelo came to see us every weekend after his bowling games or tournaments. He would have lunch or dinner with us and waited for Daddy to come home. Then they would talk until sometimes he slept over in the guest room.” His visits were so regular that the help would have an extra plate ready for him. He was always ready to praise his children and grandchildren. My father’s sense of humor, his animated gestures when he spoke and his discipline of long walks were among his finest qualities. We would all laugh about his obsessive habit of eating moderately (he ate very small meals at regular intervals) which contributed to his slim physique. He even looked like Fred Astaire. She also remembered that whenever Filipinos would ask him what his nationality was, he would proudly say, “I am Filipino with Spanish blood.” During the last years of his life, he came to visit his children in California. As soon as a year passed, he wanted to leave and go back to the Philippines. I asked him why for there were no more of his children living there. Surprised, he would always say, “Your children are there!” He died at 82 years old. To our regret, we did not grant him his

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wish of going back to the Philippines. He remained with us until his heart gave way. Telling stories kept us brave. It helped us overlook the unbearable. She confessed that her Assumption College years taught her to reach for the stars. And she did. Her travels around Europe, especially Paris, were her favorite times. She lived in Paris for two years for a study of wines and cooking at Cordon Bleu Culinary School. Her first internship had been at the Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. In a few years, she went to New York and met a good man and had a glorious wedding. We considered these blessings. There were tormenting times when Rosalie would have agonizing headaches. Doctors were quick to prescribe her painkillers. But with the doctor’s promise to control this disease, some of us left New York. I went back to California and the rest of the family traveled back and moved on with their daily lives. The next phase was Rosalie and Michael flying to Austin to try alternative medicine. Just when life was beginning to feel tranquil, Michael called. “Hello, Mom, Rosalie needs you now.” Michael’s tone was soft and distant. “If you can come as soon as you can, give me your flight day and time and I’ll come pick you up at the airport.” “Oh no, Michael,” I said. “I’ll take a cab or ask my sister who also lives in Queens, Astoria to pick me up.” It was early Wednesday morning. “Are you at the hospital or at home?” I asked lightly. Calmly. I did not want to ask the question that I had in mind. I knew too well that Michael would not call if it were not an emergency. “We are home,” he answered. I called my mother immediately and told her

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I was flying back to New York as soon as I could. “Have you visited Rosalie lately?” I was hysterical this time. “Please go and see her right now if you can, Mommy.” I hurried to pack my clothes, called for a flight reservation for that day and my husband drove me to SFO. Then the most unusual thing happened as we were leaving the driveway. I felt a slight breeze in my ear and heard a kind of whisper. “I love you, Mom.” My heart sank. I fell silent all the way to the Bay Bridge until the airport. I was hoping my premonition wouldn’t be. I knew deep in my heart that it was too late. I would not see Rosalie alive. I didn’t know for sure but it was a strong feeling only because Rosalie touched me with her presence. Eight hours later, my sister picked me up at La Guardia Airport. Her news of Rosalie’s passing was not a surprise to me. From then on, all became a blur. As it turned out, the tumor kept growing. The best doctors in the nation could not have helped and there was nothing more they could have done. Before she breathed her last, my mother, Michael, Michael’s mother, Rosalie’s aunt, and family were all beside her. Except me. I mourned my daughter’s death on the plane back from New York to California. Her last letters to me are what keep me strong and close to her.

*** To my dearest mommy, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Everyday day to you!! Having this time to spend with you was something I want you to know that means a lot to me. I’ve been sometimes very quiet, but it’s only because of how I feel and you already know that more than everyone in the whole world. I talk a lot and some things come out which don’t make sense but it’s like that when someone is sick. You really took care of me, Mom. Thanks. Please call me as I will do the same, but remember that we spoke of moving on and that’s what I want you to do with Oscar and Milena. They are really lucky to have you nearby. It’s funny how we’ve always been separated after Las Vegas. But don’t worry; maybe one day opportunity will come knocking down our door for Michael to work in California. I’ ll keep writing, ok? Please tell Oscar that I’ ll try to send him a nice story or something. I just get embarrassed now because my spelling is really bad already. Excuse it na lang. Tell him I have my fax machine at home and can send him if he wants to read my stuff….if I make a nice one. Even you! I love you so much Mom!! Don’t ever forget that!! Your favorite daughter, Rosalie (is that true?)

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MAriA luisA penArAndA was born and raised in the Philippines. She is an educator and artist. She studied drawing and painting and received a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University. She later pursued a master’s degree in technological leadership in education at what is now CSU East Bay, where she lectured for ten years. She believes that her years in the Philippines and teaching experiences in the United States has contributed to her ability to translate individuality into one’s own unique art.

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SUN, SHINE A LIGHT Lolan Buhain Sevilla

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hine stared at the blank screen for an eternity. Okay, so it was more like fifty minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Each blinking cursor seemed a taunt of Well, I’m waiting. Me too, she thought. This was a cruel case of writer’s block with no cure in sight. Three years worth stream-ofconscious free-writes in journals producing nothing more than clichéd scribbles. Sure, in-between you had the writing workshops, creative recovery books, and advice from well-meaning writer friends, all in the hopes of finding that spark again. None of these, however, did the trick of unblocking that unmovable block, no matter how much showing up to the page she did. Many days and nights had been dedicated to rectifying this situation of hers, late nights wasted staring at MS Word white; two sentences written only to be met by its fate of delete, delete, delete, back to slate clean. When none of her rituals worked their once proven magic: Miles chasing that note in blue, green candles on altars or even tightly packed bowls; she knew rough waters lay ahead. And we’ll only quietly side-note that period of sad rhyming poetry. Yes, it was that bad. A sad writer’s tale, indeed. What Shine has yet to admit, however, barely let herself contemplate is the fact that her best writing - those stories and poems published in books and magazines, the ones folks said touched their hearts bringing them back from the depths of despair, those sun-kissed lines of dialogue popping into her head at the most random of moments—were all written from her place of trauma and sadness. The big deal, you ask? Well for starters, since embarking on that painful journey of healing, where talk story of resilience and forgiveness purged itself through keystroke... that presumably endless well of creativity has been cleaned, bone-dry. Before that though, she had been on a roll. There were poems, short stories and theater pieces, collaborations with other artists, and even a haiku

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t-shirt series, no joke. It was the writing and therapy, writing as therapy, writing through the therapy that produced some music on a page, sonnets splashed in reds and yellows, color outside some tactile lines. This was her golden age that could only get better with age. “I sure got that shit wrong,” she reasoned to the cursor. Ironically enough, it was when she had her breakthrough, found some stability and a voice, when the words exited, stage left. Gone were those little bursts of inspiration that sent her writing for days on end, no more voices whispering crazy ideas for musical theater pieces. How can it be that after all this struggle, all this pain to make it through to the other side, find that proverbial light at the end of the fucking tunnel, does it lead her to some straight-up silence? Seriously? After all this work to end the mess of turmoil in her soul, to find healthy connection in relationships, to find forgiveness in her heart for perpetrators, blah blah blah... and all for what? A fucking blinking cursor and relentless pressure to write something, anything down. “C’mon Shine, think! Thiiiiiiiiiink!!!!!! I do have stories to tell,” she pled to the cursor. “Really? Again with the blinking? We used to be such good friends. Was it because I wanted more? Is that what turned you off ? This silent treatment is just cold!” Shine felt her anger surface. “WELL FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKIN’ CURSOR, MUTHAFUCKA! FUCK YOU AND YOUR CASUAL COMING AND GOING AS YOU PLEASE!” When the phone rings, Shine’s annoyed and grateful for the break mid-cursor beat down. She answers a grunted hello. “Eww, hello to you, too.” Shine sighed, “Don’t take it personal, Sunny. I’m just havin’ a bad day.” Enter Sunshine Dorado, twin sister to Shine, older by six hours. On the day of their birth, their Nanay went into labor almost five months premature

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during a visit back home to the Philippines. Luckily, the town doctor lived the next street over. Their Tatay, on the other hand, fainted once he caught sight of Sunshine’s crowning head, knocking himself unconscious on the hard linoleum of the kitchen floor. Sunshine came into the world a mere 20 minutes later after some light pushing which produced a dew-like glisten upon their mother’s forehead. The way their Nanay tells it harps were playing in the background and shit, with angel wings guided her entry. She came into the world laughing with a head full of finger-waved curls. It was a glorious moment of joy interrupted by a second-wave of contractions and more than one exchanged look of confusion by those in the room. The doctor’s focus away from the newborn, realized another birth was taking place. Twins he proclaimed, excited at this first for him! Their panicked Nanay, not quite so, and definitely not prepared for the arrival of a second child. She looked to her own mother grasping the old woman’s hand and hunkered herself down for what would later be described as the most excruciating six hours of swamp-like sweats and sailor-worthy curses to produce Shine, entering the world feet first and full of complications. Little did she know. When all was said and done, their Nanay caught glimpse of Shine, then proceeded to pass out from exhaustion and blood loss. With their father still napping on the floor and their mother unconscious, the doctor looked to the beaming Lola for this second daughter’s name. Caught in the whirlwind this new love for not one, but two granddaughters bestowed, Lola thought the most logical choice of name would be one to best compliment the already chosen name for Sunshine. Unbeknownst to the grandmother, however, once she proclaimed the second granddaughter’s name as Moonshine, was it’s association with the illegal distillation of booze. Of course. “Shine, I just sent you my update for the

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Christmas letter!” Sunny always had a way of speaking in exclamation marks! “Per-fect ti-ming,” Shine mused under-herbreath. Oh yes, THE update. Every year the Dorado Family sent out one of those Christmas newsletters flaunting the successes and excesses experienced by each member. Shine always felt embarrassed by them, but nonetheless pressured to participate. Adding insult to injury due to her “hobby” of writing, has been the designated author of said newsletter every year since the seventh grade. 1993 finds the Dorado household a hotbed of excitement! Salvadore received a promotion as regional manager of his department at the United States Postal Service, with this added responsibility came a raise large enough for a six-bedroom house at the new EASTLAKE ESTATES development (see picture of house above). Imagine our surprise when Sheila scored a big hit for her seamstress business when the MEGA SUPERSTAR Lea Salonga requested a one-of-a-kind gown to wear at the Filipino’s in Achievement Award ceremony honoring the BROADWAY AWARD-WINNING, Miss Saigon (see picture of Sheila and Miss Salonga to the right). Our little Sunny made us so proud when she received a letter proclaiming early acceptance to STANFORD UNIVERSITY next fall (see acceptance letter to the left). She’ ll be double-majoring in Pre-Law and Calculus. Guess the Dorado family will be cheering on the Cardinals these next four years! And we can’t forget that Shine, ONCE-AGAIN, lettered in varsity basketball and is deciding between two extremely PRESTIGIOUS PRIVATE women’s colleges, Mills and Smith (see Shine’s senior picture with letterman’s jacket draped over shoulder below). Last, but certainly not least, Lola Daneng hit the bingo JACKPOT during the church’s Senior Friendraiser (see picture of Lola holding winning bingo card, inset). Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Dorado Family!

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“Don’t you find it the least bit gross that we still do these newsletters,” Shine asked Sunny wanting to burst her bubble. “Why, every year are you like this?” “Because every year it’s the same. Bragging to relatives and family friends about things that will somehow make our lives seem better than theirs, flaunting material things and achievements. It feels fake—” “Dude, don’t even try getting all selfrighteous—” “Whatever,” Shine interrupted, “We’re so quick to point out all the ways we attained the American Dream, but what we don’t write is how Nanay and Tatay don’t even sleep in the same bedroom anymore, or how my big shot sister the lawyer can get her deadbeat baby daddy to pay child support, or how her Ma’am-Sir twin sister’s roommate sleeps in the same bed as her!” “Seriously, what’s up your ass? You weren’t saying all this shit when your book got published and won all those awards! Jesus, it’s supposed to be fun, a way to connect with friends and family, with each other. Everybody does it. What? Is your little group gonna protest the patriarchy and classicism of Christmas Newsletters?” “Why you gotta be a bitch about it? And if memory serves me right it’s you who shouldn’t be saying shit about my ‘little group’ when we saved your ass last year starting that boycott against opposing counsel’s sweatshop-owning client.” Pause. Shine new this would get ugly unless one of them backed-down. She immediately regretted lighting the flame, but didn’t know if she could swallow back the bile of pride. “Look Shine, I didn’t call to pick a fight. I’m sorry if I offended you, but when did you get so sensitive and where did your sense of humor go?” Truth is, Shine didn’t know where to begin, didn’t know how to speak the fear of failure and silence. She wished she could open up to Sunny, tell her about the identity crisis she was experiencing, the mounting anxiety to produce something, anything that proved she was still a writer. Despite having split from the same embryo and sharing the same womb, their relationship was complicated, both close and always on the brink of some age-old tension. From birth it seemed they were pitted against one another, however subtle. Sunny was graceful and girlie, did as she was told, light-complected like their mom, very good at the things little girls should be good at,

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logical and disciplined who grew up the way every immigrant who crosses shores or borders prays their child will be. Then there was Shine who got the straw-like hair of her dad’s farmer folk, was never delicate nor graceful, excelled at sports and was three shades past chocolate fromalways playing outside. She was a tomboy who drew the whispers of aunties at family parties, kicked-it with the men watching football games during Thanksgiving and got stuck in dresses because she was a twin. Sure, she excelled at school but showed promise in things like the writing of poems, praised for a wonderful imagination and an empathy for others. Maybe it was a blessing they excelled at different things, assuring they didn’t have to compete against one another for the same prizes or praise. Sunny was the prototypical success, immigration lawyer on the partner track while was Shine a writer and community organizer. Both led honorable lives, no matter how different in principle or practice. And for the most part they were still close despite differing ideologies on how to go about social change. Still, Shine felt the weight that all those on the far end of black sheep spectrum feel as the neverdo-well sibling. Sunny broke the silence. “Hey, I know you’re going through a hard time,” taking a breath she continued, “I don’t wanna fight you,” and then repeated it again, softer. “It’s just that I don’t always know what to say or do to make it better. But I am here if you need me. Even if I don’t understand, I’ll still try my best to support you.” Waiting a beat Shine replied, “Jeez-us, can you please stop making it hard to displace my anger onto you?” “What the fuck, Asshole! Try to be supportive and I get shit on!” Their banter was light again, lighter than it had been the past year when phone calls got fewer and farther in-between, more strained from distance and silence. It was then Shine decided to push herself to share, not simply because it was what you were supposed to do with family, but because Sunny made the attempt at connecting herself, genuinely wanted to understand what was happening in her sister’s life. “I dunno where to start, maybe with that I haven’t written anything in three years and I feel like I’m failing at the one thing I was ever good at, and I hate feeling like a failure compared to how perfect at everything you are…” The two sisters spoke for hours, talking like

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they hadn’t spoken in years, hashing out years-old shit, crying over family traumas they had worked through separately due to the silence that was always just a little more convenient. Sunny spoke about the shame of having to raise her daughter without the father she can’t seem to shake while Shine grieved over the childhood their uncle stole from her those summer afternoon’s when they were six, both filling crevices thought destined to stay empty. Together they mourned the perfect Dorado family known only through newsletters and family photos. “Dammit, Shine, I was only calling to give you my fucking update!” “Shut-up! I wouldn’t even have answered if I knew you were gonna make me cry!” Tender-hearted, Shine continued, “I do love you, Sunshine. Thanks for calling, and for listening.” “I love you too,” Sunny replied. “And, more than anything I’m happy I was born first and didn’t get stuck with the name Moonshine.” “Why you gotta fuck the moment up?” “That’s really the source of your bitterness, isn’t it? You gotta take that up with Lola.” “Really, though? I open my heart and this is what I get?” “Whatever, it’s always whine whine whine. You should start a petition and see if anybody cares—” Sunny stopped abruptly mid-sentence. “Omigod, I just got an idea! Here’s how we’re gonna fuck with your writer’s block…” Shine listened to Sunny’s brilliant plan, feeling blessed she picked the phone up for once instead of submitting to her tendency towards isolation. They threw out their ideas, each more outrageous than the other and were more than happy with the end result.

2009 was a banner year for the Dorado clan! Salvadore was forced into early retirement by his racist superiors at the United States Postal Service, but cleaned the joint out with some hush money and a few office supplies. Needing to somehow redeem his manhood, Salvadore found a MISTRESS via an online chat room for Filipino mail order brides (see picture of mail order Ad above). Sheila, after first ignoring the obvious signs of Salvadore’s aff air moved permanently into the downstairs guestroom. She PASSIVEAGRESSIVELY gets her revenge through an addiction to QVC and a somewhat questionable “ friendship” with Auntie Elvie down the street (see picture of Sheila & Auntie Elvie whispering to one another on the right). After years of trying for back-child support from her DEAD-BEAT BABBY DADDY, Sunny continues to raise Rei-Rei on her own with a healthy dose of bitterness against men (see picture of Sunny holding voodoo doll likeness of said baby daddy for Rei-Rei to the left). Rei-Rei is still born OUT-OF-WEDLOCK, but has tested at the genius level and will be skipping the first grade into the second (see picture of Rei-Rei getting bullied by older kids inset). Having once again been LAID-OFF FROM HER NON-PROFIT JOB, spending days writing poems and stories, Shine finds comfort in the support of her “roommate” Marie. She has protested against the Philippine presidents puppet regime and corruption a record 24 times this year (see screen capture of Shine getting arrested at Philippine Consulate on ABS-CBN at bottom … Sunny bailed her sister out and is currently representing her). Last but certainly not least, Lola Daneng’s intervention for her GAMBLING ADDICTION was a success! She now leads regular workshops on the “Perils of the Bingo Trap” at local senior centers. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Dorado Family!

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lOlAn buHAin sevillA is a queer butch Pinay cultural worker who roots her art in community, study, and practice. She is a member of Filipinas for Rights & Empowerment, as well as the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, and cofounder of Kreatibo, a Bay Area–based queer Pin@y Artist Collective. Lolan has been published in {M}aganda Magazine, The Womanist Journal, and Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women (AAWAA, 2007). She is author of Translating New Brown (PinayJive Press, 2005), and coeditor of Walang Hiya: Literature Taking Risks Toward Liberatory Practice (Carayan Press, 2010). Lolan had the privilege of a 2012 Writing Residency at Hedgebrook where she got to work on her first novel Every Surface An Altar.

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“Thanks be to God,” she said with a sigh I’d heard a thousand times before— that breath of relief that there is someone in the world, finally, who understands what hurts you. — TENORIO IN “FELIX STARRO”

WORDS OF A SUPERASSASSIN by Melissa R. Sipin

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e met in the Sunset District of San Francisco, in a restaurant with a bone fish carved onto the wooden panel above the front door. I was nervous. Hella nervous. I first read Lysley’s “L’ Amour, California” in The Atlantic back when I lived in Charleston, South Carolina, when I was desperate for a voice that spoke to me beyond the color of my skin, past the ribcage. Being one of the only Filipino Americans in the South, I sat alone at a better-thannothing sushi restaurant during my lunch break, took my newly purchased magazine out—a defense I use when I happen to eat alone—and skipped through the glossy pages until I landed on his story near the back. The first lines sang to me like a kundiman: “My Sister, Isa, speaks English and Tagalog. But one word she could say in many languages: koigokoro, beminnen, mahal, amor. ‘It’s the most

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important thing, she used to say, ‘the only thing. L-O-V-E. Love.” Meeting him was like the first time I read his darkly, funny stories. Love. Like hearing your brother talk story. Like reuniting with a family member you haven’t seen in a long time. And that’s the beauty of his work: its emotionally and mentally shifting intimacy. Lysley’s sly wit skillfully intersects with the heartbreaking irony of life, and it’s through the specificity and depth of his characters that we can reanalyze the underbelly of the American Dream—through the lenses of people who, for once, look, act, and feel like us. Let me tell you a little about Lysley before we begin. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A Whiting Writer’s Award winner and

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a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he has received fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Phillips Exeter Academy, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in the Philippines, Lysley currently lives in San Francisco, and is an associate professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.

[ M.S. ]

What i love about your short story collection, “Monstress,” was the varied depth of your characters. You said in an interview on YouTube, “i think it’s really important for a writer to know what matters to them emotionally, that way you can find the core of the character.” Could you expound on that?

[ L. T. ] I think you need to know what you care about, what you’re really passionate or saddened or angered by in order to give your writing that sense of urgency. Speaking for myself, I don’t write anything autobiographical and I’m a firm believer in the idea that just because something happens to you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s interesting. It’s only interesting if you have a real emotional investment and emotional perspective on that material, whether 86

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it be real or not. To that extent, I would argue that most writers are writing about things that are emotionally autobiographical to them, meaning that the emotional concerns of their characters in their fiction/nonfiction pieces, or in their poetry, resonate with them emotionally based on the writer’s experiences. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a leper colony, for example, but I think those ideas of exile, isolation, dislocation, and perceptions of beauty, I think those are things I thought about growing up. So I have empathy for those ideas but I’m much more interested in contextualizing that against a fictional backdrop than I am writing about whatever true life experience might have evoked those emotions within me. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t write anything autobiographical. People write autobiographical material all the time and it’s wonderful, but you have to have the right emotional perspective or at least the right emotional questions about them before you can really explore that material.

[ M.S. ] What motivated you to write? i remember you said you didn’t start writing until your senior year of college.

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[ L. T. ] I didn’t start writing until my senior year in college and it never occurred to me to write fiction. But then I took a class with a writer named Bharati Mukherjee, who wrote a book called The Middleman and Other Stories, a short story collection that won the National Book Critics Circle award in ‘88. I actually took a lecture class with her not knowing anything about her. When I read her book, I was really impressed and dazzled by how she was writing about the American immigrant experience from the perspectives of people who clearly were not her. She had some stories in there from the point of view of Indian American women, but she had Filipino characters, Trinidadian characters, white characters. She tried to inhabit those different perspectives. It was clearly a fictional leap on her part and I really admired that. As someone who grew up in an immigrant household I already had a connection to that kind of material but to see her taking that theme from so many different points of view and so many different experiences—to me that was something to aspire to. I can try to do this, I can try to write something I really care about but do it in a way that’s so clearly not like my own experience. And to me that’s the fun of fiction—try to be in someone else’s life, try to be in someone else’s story. I really believe had it not been for her, I wouldn’t have started writing. I read as a kid, a lot of comic books, but books weren’t that big a deal in my house. I don’t know what I would’ve done. But luckily, I had the good fortune of working with her. [ M.S. ]

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You mentioned in several interviews that a reviewer critiqued your collection and has said that the stories were “generic” because they didn’t give her an understanding of the Filipino/ Filipino American experience. i really loved your commentary around that, how you said, “no, it’s not my objective… and it’s odd that anyone would expect a kind of comprehensive understanding of an entire group based on eight stories.” What can you say about the burden of representation? How can beginning writers understand and counter/dispel this myth?

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[ L. T. ] First, I don’t want to discount the idea of writing for a community or a particular audience. Particularly one that is historically or currently underrepresented in a given field. And the truth is there aren’t a lot of Filipino/Filipino Americans publishing, and there certainly aren’t too many in the literary mainstream, which is unfortunately the kind of thing that gets you the most exposure. I’m not saying you have to go mainstream, but those things can be helpful in trying to establish a presence. I understand that question: am I obligated or do I want to take on the responsibility (or even the privilege) of trying to represent a community? If that is your main motivation, I really don’t know how good of work you can possibly produce. I think you can only produce good work if you’re writing about things that matter to you emotionally and psychologically as a writer, as an artist, as a human being. And I also think that you have to write about something that is entertaining to you. If you’re not writing about things that are fun, that you enjoy imagining or questioning, why bother? You can do a lot more fun things than sit at your desk and write. Writing is lonely, it’s isolating. What’s important is to write the thing you want to write, to enjoy it on a gut level. They’re [mainstream America] going to, for better or for worse, look at you as a possible representation of that group. So it’s a reality you probably have to—well, you don’t have to be aware of it—but it’s a reality, and do with it what you will. [ M.S. ] i read a very interesting article about the relationship between anger/rage and one’s art on diaCriTiCs, a blog curated by viet nguyen from usC. viet said, “every minority writer, however defined, has had to deal with this issue of how to mix or balance or address or ignore the relationship of art to anger… even minority writers who don’t seem angry on the page have had to think about the kinds of anger that are tied to being their particular minority and decide to evade it or sublimate it into something else.” How did you appropriate anger in your characters? How did you come to experience 87


their anger? I remember you once said that ultimately everything you write is intellectually or emotionally autobiographical.

[ L. T. ]

First, I have to wonder if I even possessed that anger that he’s talking about. Did I have that anger? It may seem like such a broad term to me, and I’m reluctant to respond to that term directly. I can say that I’ve maybe felt that sense of injustice or unfairness. I think especially in terms of this idea of representation or diversity, I often do feel Filipinos, as Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in general, are underrepresented. I do think a lot of my work is motivated by this idea that I want to make it clear that we are here, that Filipinos have been here for quite some time historically. That they have put forth their investment in the American reality. And I think it would be great if they got a little more recognition. Maybe that’s a kind of anger, but I do feel insistent on making a presence for my characters let’s say. So I think in a story like “Superassassin,” a kid who’s on the fringes of society especially in school, I think he’s trying very much, and he’s motivated by a lot of anger. He wants his presence to be known, and he wants his presence to be felt. I think the irony in that story is that he’s also battling for anonymity and a secret identity. We never learn the narrator’s name, at the end of by the end of the story he dons a mask, he dons a costume. So, I do think there’s a conflict there. He wants to be acknowledged, he wants to be recognized for his power but at the same time he wants to maintain a sense of secrecy. I have no idea what that means (chuckles) but I think the fact that there’s tension there suggests that whatever anger I might have or frustration, it’s a complicated one.

[ M.S. ]

How is the novel going?

[ L. T. ] In my own experience, writing a book of short stories is no preparation for writing a novel. So when I hear writers who say, “I felt I trained on writing the short story and now I’m writing the novel,” I don’t understand that at all. They’re such different challenges. Writing a short story is incredibly difficult, really hard. Give me a set of characters who I feel a connection with and I’m 88

pretty much going to be immersed in the universe for quite some time.

[ M.S. ]

Fill in the blank: writing to you is ___ ?

[ L. T. ] Need-based. By that I mean—I need to do it. If I didn’t do it, it would gnaw away at me. It would make me feel incomplete. Writing doesn’t necessarily bring me joy or it’s often not fun, but I don’t think I could be at peace with myself if I stopped. That may change in the future, but right now I’m mostly doing it because I need to do it. I’m obviously not doing it for the money or the fame (chuckles). If I don’t do it, then I don’t really have creative work. I teach and that’s obviously a job. It’s a job that I feel fortunate to do, but I love the fact that another job of mine that is equally important to me is writing. I love the idea that at the end of the day, my work is to create. It’s to turn make-believe into something tangible and substantial, and hopefully meaningful to someone else. I love that, and if I didn’t have that, I think my life would be pretty incomplete and empty. [ M.S. ] In your opinion, what role does art play in the 21st century? [ L. T. ] I would say it plays an unclear role because there’s so much stuff that pops up in the world, whether it be technologically, politically, geographically. There’s just so much happening that I can see in certain lives, in certain atmospheres, I would imagine that art is pretty meaningless; it really can’t do anything. But then, I can see situations where you can have a similar set of circumstances and art is essential. So I would say it’s unclear. [ M.S. ] How about a more personal question: what’s on your iPod? [ L. T. ] I’m so bad—I don’t listen to music very much. But when I was at the MacDowell Colony, I would listen to music on my iPod. What I would listen to the most is a band called Earlimart. I have two of their albums on my iPod and I love their stuff. I listen to Abba: Gold Hits. I listen to the Breeders. I had college roommates who used to

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play that all the time. I listen to a bit of the David Byrne—the musical that he did for Imelda Marcos, “Here Lies Love,” which is by, I think, Florence and the Machine. That’s some of what I listened to when I was away.

[ M.S. ] What’s your favorite city in the whole world, and can you write there?

there was this huge spread of Filipino food. All these people had no idea who I was, but they all showed up, they listened they asked questions, and they took pictures. It was one of the greatest experiences regarding this book. So, I definitely felt supported that way.

[ M.S. ]

Have you done a reading in san diego?

[ M.S. ] And lastly, what does being Filipino American mean to you?

[ L. T. ] I feel like they’ve responded. Here’s an example: I had to give a reading at Santa Rosa. I’ve gotten accustomed to readings where you might have a good crowd and other times you have two people show up. I didn’t know anyone in Santa Rosa and thought: this will be one of those nights where two people will show up. And it was quite a drive, I was tired, and I was thinking that I’m not quite in the mood for this. But when I walked in, it was packed. Every seat was taken. Most of the people there were from the Filipino Historical Society of Sonoma County, because the events coordinator of that bookstore had the genius to contact them and ask them to co-sponsor this. So, I got there and

[ L. T. ] It means that I’m an American, it means that there’s no such thing as a definitive or a quintessential American. It means that Filipinos are here and they have been here, and they’ve invested a lot in this country. It’s also a way of affirming your presence here. I think, also, in the wrong context, it’s a way of marginalization; people can put you to the side because of it. It means a lot of different things.

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[ M.S. ] i’m curious to know: how was the Filipino community receptive to your book?

[ L. T. ] My family was there in San Diego, so they were able to round up all their Filipino friends. I didn’t know too many people there, but they were all kind to attend. That one was a really good turnout. But, I actually just got invited to do a tour in the Philippines—so I’m excited about it. I was born there, but we left when I was seven months old. I’m excited that they reached out, and I believe I’ll be going out there tentatively in February. We’ll see if that Filipino community turns out. I once read some scholarly article about Filipino American literature, and they mentioned me briefly and said I would have no readership in the Philippines because the stories were just too American. But to be perfectly honest, I was fine with that; if they aren’t interested in American fiction that’s fine because I’m an American writer. Just because you have a particular commonality, they may not be your community. They may not get you.

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[ L. T. ] My favorite city tends to change, but my most recent favorite city is Montreal. I didn’t even try to write there because I was on vacation. If I was there for an extended period of time I could do it. But if I were to go back for just a couple of weeks, I’d just be running around all the time. Though it’s not my favorite city, but obviously means a lot to me, is the city where I grew up—San Diego. I cannot write there; I cannot do any serious writing. I finally learned to accept it and be completely okay with the fact that I can’t write in the house that I grew up in. I kind of like that because it reminds me that it’s just another part of my life—there’s a huge part of my life where writing is completely insignificant. I have this existence and that existence, and I like that they’re quite separate. And that can obviously create tension as well, especially if I’m feeling like I have to get work done when I’m home. I don’t mind it anymore, and I’ve learned to embrace it a little bit.

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TAYO Literary Magazine | Issue 04  

TAYO Literary Magazine is an annual publication that is produced under the umbrella organization of TAYO Arts & Culture. We promote the work...

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