Page 1


contributions

04

Imagery of Impotence and Infertility: The “Old Man” Narrators of T.S. Eliot’s Major Poems

08

The Unforseen Consequences of Perfection: A Comparative Analysis of Thomas More’s Utopia, Plato’s Republic, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

12

Ireland as a Potent Shaping Force in James Joyce’s Dubliners

15

Science and Utopia in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

19

On the Edge

22

Natividad Marquez: Did Philippine Literature Leave You In Its Flight?

30

Wine

31

Waiting, Hoping

33

Class Card

36

Papa

41

Old Songs on Rewind

43

Scene of the Aftermath

45

Time

50

The Highs and Lows of Life

57

Circles

59

So That’s Why It Taste’s So Good!

61

Maybe Next Year

62

To You

65

Left in Time

74

Sunrise from the Fifteenth Floor

77

Constant

80

Libation In Memory Of (An Exorcism)

81

Waking Up and Regaining Consciousness

83

Closing Time: 10 PM

84

Skywatching

85

Nostos


INTRODUCTION Much like the theme of this journal, the Task-Involving Research Committee was in stasis for much of the year. This is, of course, an exaggeration. But it is fair to say that for most of the year the journal committee was paralyzed by the task that lay in front of them: to produce a journal that was equal, if not better, to the one produced by the previous committee, Flux. This is reflected even in the theme chosen for this journal: Stasis, which is in direct opposition to Flux. The irony is not lost on us – while we dare call this journal ‘new’, it is very much a continuation of the previous journal. After flux, stasis. It seemed very fitting. What follows after a great upheaval, a revolution? A period of peace, a settling down. Stasis. It had to be done, even at the cost of alienating readers getting into this journal for the first time. We must apologize, but it is the nature of works like these, which stand in front of each other in binary opposition. In a way Flux and Stasis encapsulates the history of the organization, as Flux was very much an upheaval, even as it strove to return to the organization’s tradition of journal writing. The journal was radical in many ways, but it was also very traditional in others. The men and women who took on the task of Flux were part of the old guard, going gently through the night, as the new blood slowly trickled in. It was, in other words, the collision of the new and the old, and such a collision is never clean. The result is a work that is ephemeral and at the same time stalwart. As such, it was a perfect metaphor for the organization. Stasis, then, is the product of this turnover. We who have inherited this legacy, who are now operating under the burden of flux, have produced this. We, the product of a period of great change and upheaval, now return to the tradition. And, as if to parallel the development of Flux the previous year, our response is to change – the introduction of workshops, intense critical discussions, and the like aimed at improving our output as scholars and writers. Even as we return to our roots, we branch out and evolve. The cycle goes on and on. After flux, stasis. The writers featured here are, for the most part, first-timers. Rough at the edges, certainly, but this is their work now. Here are stories that deal with diverse topics ranging from the aftermath of sex to the consumption of infected lechon manok, reaching as far as a discussion on the nature of time itself. Here are critical essays that discuss impotence, nations, dystopias, and paralysis, among others. Here are poems that deal with the permanent nature of consumption, which is ironically in a constant state of change. Here is, in a nutshell, UP Lingua Franca, circa 2011-2012. Lest we run the risk of becoming as long as the previous year’s introduction (and forcing even more awkward parallels between Flux and Stasis), we will end here. Acknowledgements must be given to all the people involved in this journal. There will be more work to come in the following years, certainly, but everyone who has participated in this journal deserves a pat in the back for a job well done.

May we continue to live in interesting times.

Franz Bangalan Vice-President (2011-2012) UP Lingua Franca


CRITICAL ESSAYS

04

IMAGERY OF IMPOTENCE AND INFERTILITY

THE “OLD MAN” NARRATORS OF T.S. ELIOT’S MAJOR POEMS by Franz Edric Bangalan

This paper aims to examine three of T.S. Eliot’s poems, concentrating primarily on the narrator of these poems. This paper aims to show that these poems, while not necessarily told from the point of view of an old man, speak with the voice and traits of one in old age. This highlights and emphasizes the main theme that all these poems share: the “impotence” of the narrator and the world that he lives in, as well as the failure to recover from this weakness. By impotence, I am talking about the inability of the personas of these poems to effect any lasting change, and how they are unable to even pronounce what they see as wrong in their world. Furthermore, they are “infertile” – lacking life and vitality, as well as the opportunity for growth. The narrator and his setting both suffer from this infertility, and this paper will examine how the imagery employed by these poems succeeds at getting this point across. This paper will use three of T.S. Eliot’s more well-known poems: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “The Waste Land”, and “The Hollow Men.” For “The Waste Land”, I will focus on a specific passage, that of Tiresias’, but I will allude to the other images in the poem as necessary. While “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” explicitly employs an aging old man as its narrator, “The Waste Land” and “The Hollow Men” do not. “The Waste Land” is composed “fragments I have shored at my ruins” (Abrams 2196), a multitude of differing voices and personalities, while “The Hollow Men” is devoid of any central speaker – there is only “We”. I intend to form a link between these three poems, by establishing a common theme and narrator amongst them. “I do not think they will sing to me”: J. Alfred Prufrock and the crisis of impotence ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, the earliest of the poems I will be using, was published in 1915. The poem deals with the troubles of a persona who, in a social setting, wishes to mingle with other people and give some grave, important pronouncement. However, he is hampered by his weakness, and his embarrassment over his age and appearance. He is, for lack of a better term, impotent – he is not strong enough to declare what it is that he wants to declare, and he is not courageous enough to “disturb the universe.” The poem opens with a passionate statement, Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky (Abrams 2174)

[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”] My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin— [They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]

only to ruin this romantic image by comparing the image of the sky to “a patient etherized upon a table”. From the beginning the narrator is shown to be clumsy around social situations; he is painfully shy and incapable of forming a conversation even with the “the women come and go/talking of Michelangelo.” He believes that he has all the time in the world to make his grand statement (“And indeed there will be time/For the yellow smoke that slides along the street”) to justify his own inaction. For what he is doing is inaction – he begins by asking some person, imaginary or not, on a walk through the streets so that they may discuss something, but he refrains from doing so, instead muttering to himself while “the women come and go/talking of Michelangelo”. Hiding in the delusion that there is enough time in the world, he avoids interaction and shuns it. He fears that the following reaction will happen: With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—

Already he makes clear that he is embarrassed that he is growing old, with the bald spot in the middle of his hair and the thinness of his body. He declares that he wishes to communicate something important,


CRITICAL ESSAYS

05

Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

but he is afraid of the reactions he will receive – this fear causes him to remain stuck in place, inactive. Regretful of his old age and the reactions he fear he will receive, the persona retreats, unable to communicate what he wishes to say. He even wishes that he could be something different, I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

believing that his present form is weak and useless. The poem ends with the persona sadly admitting:

I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

And in short, I was afraid.

Instead of saying what he wishes to say, the persona instead surrenders to the weakness of his body, the impotence of his voice. He invokes the image of mermaids, meant to lure powerful sailors to their deaths by singing of wonderful, blissful dreams; however, the persona says: “I do not think they will sing to me.” He is too weak to be noticed by the mermaids. The poem works because the persona narrating it is old. The lament of the persona is that he is too weak and helpless to communicate with other people – as an old man, he would have significant difficulty interacting with the women in the room talking of Michelangelo. He lacks the virility and charm to attract people and make them listen to his words, so he resorts to a monologue to get out his thoughts – a monologue that none of the people get to hear. He invokes distasteful and dying images (“a patient stretched out against the sky”) and admits that And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

He realizes that he is old or growing old – and this thought causes him fear and the inability to act.

“I Tiresias, though blind”: infertility and hopelessness in “The Waste Land” Eliot remarks in his notes for “The Waste Land” that “Tiresias, although mere spectator and not indeed ‘a character’ is yet the most important personage in the poem… What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem.” (2188-2189) This is an interesting comment to make, and it makes sense. Tiresias, the old man, can be seen as the uniting viewpoint of the poem, which is otherwise a disjointed series of narratives from different narrators. Eliot notes that Tireasis is the culmination of all the other characters in the poem, male and female, because of his peculiar history in mythology. With this in mind, it is not strange then to consider Tiresias as the main voice of the poem. While he narrates a vision of a clerk and a typist in a romantic tryst, a decidedly mundane and unexciting vision compared to everything else witnessed in the poem so far, this vision encapsulates all the problems of the modern Waste Land: all love has been drained from sex, leaving only a barren and unremarkable tryst between two unremarkable characters. Tiresias, the blind and “Old man with wrinkled female breasts”, witnesses this specific vision because this vision is representative of the Waste Land’s themes – spiritual death and infertility. The tryst between the clerk and the typist is “dry” and “barren”, and all the romance in the encounter disappears.

(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all Enacted on this same divan or bed; I who have sat by Thebes below the wall And walked among the lowest of the dead.)


CRITICAL ESSAYS

06 Furthermore, Tiresias is unable to act on his vision – he is blind and he is old. He can only foretell; he is doomed to observe what is happening and is helpless to do anything. Like Prufrock, Tiresias, being old, is too impotent to do anything; he is forced to watch an infertile act that will produce no offspring. The presence of Tiresias highlights one of main problems that “The Waste Land” raises. While sex is perverted and rendered infertile and while the land turns into a literal Waste Land, everyone else is incapable of acting to remedy this situation. The only man capable of seeing what is happening, represented by Tiresias, is impotent – that is, he cannot do anything, rendered weak and useless by the lack of hope and the prevalence of despair. They can only watch, helplessly, as the clerk and the typist have their tryst that will result in nothing. “Headpiece filled with straw”: the voicelessness of the Hollow Men “The Hollow Men” represent a radical departure from Eliot’s earlier poetry. Written in 1925, and being the latest of the three poems being discussed, the poem refrains from using a specific narrator like in Eliot’s earlier poetry or even a fragmented voice like in “The Waste Land. Instead, the poem is narrated by a disembodied “We”, the titular hollow men. We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

These hollow men are allusions to the shades inhabiting hell in Dante’s Inferno, Eliot notes. The poem extensively alludes to the Inferno, as these hollow men are essentially shades – like the shades, these men are hollow because they are failures, incapable of acting or choosing a side. The shades in the Inferno are punished because they failed to choose a concrete side, and the hollow men despair because they failed to do anything of significance while they were alive. These hollow men, then, are logical extensions of the persona of “Prufrock” and Tiresias from “The Waste Land” – these are the men who, due to fear and impotence, have done nothing with their lives. Hence, they are the hollow men. Due to their impotence, they have lost a voice of their own, and must now speak in chorus to be heard: “We.” Our dried voices, when

We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass In our dry cellar

And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow

The Hollow Men suffer still due to their failure to commit – they are voiceless, and they regret this fact. They cannot find salvation in their situation, and ask that they be remembered, like the shades of The Inferno. As the ultimate consequence of their impotence, even their whispers become meaningless – their voices cannot reach anyone. The persona of the poem mourns the fact that they cannot find redemption from their state. They wish to reach “death’s other kingdom”, and yet are denied access because of their failure. And so they are relegated to being hollow men. This idea is elaborated near the end of the poem, and shown to be the cause of their hollow nature. Between the idea

These Hollow Men are the Shadow – by staying “between the idea/and the reality”, they have fallen. This is what brings the Hollow Men pain – as they are shadows, they cannot achieve true redemption or peace.


CRITICAL ESSAYS They are doomed to forever being hollow men, “headpieces full of straw.” The end, then, is fitting: This is the way the world ends

07

This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.

The world of the Hollow Men end with a whimper, much like the Hollow Men have whimpered in their lives. Instead of a grand spectacle, the words of these men have fallen short and useless. This is the failure of the Hollow Men – in the end, they have nothing notable in their lives. And so their lives end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Conclusion: “Shantih shantih shantih” The three poems, when examined under the view of one narrator (or at least narrators that share the same description of being old, impotent, and infertile) link them all together. The persona of “Prufrock” and Tiresias of “The Waste Land” represent the modern man, who is too weak and impotent to act on anything. Their end result is the Hollow Men, the voiceless, who regret doing nothing but is incapable of doing anything because of their nature as shades. All this happens because the persona of these poems is “old”, in the sense that they are incapable of acting, considering themselves weak. The persona of these poems is impotent – he cannot raise their hand in protest and demand that something change. Instead they bow their heads down and feebly justify to themselves that no one will listen to their words, for they are old and decrepit. “The Hollow Men” offers a way out, albeit not for those who are already hollow, and “The Waste Land” hints at this as well. Only by avoiding the mistakes of the persona of these poems can one avoid being “hollow” – this is the ending statement of “The Waste Land”, when it declares: “Santih santih santih.”: signifying the end of the Upanishad – a book of teaching. Here is where the teaching ends; now one must practice. – these are what the last lines imply.

Works Cited Litz, A. Walton. Eliot in His Time; Essays on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of The Waste Land.. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973. Print. Abrams, M.H.. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prudrock.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 1986. 2174-2175. Print. Abrams, M.H.. “The Waste Land.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 1986. 2180-2196. Print. “A Hypertext Version of T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”.” ADUni.org: ArsDigita University Alumni Website. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2011. <http://aduni.org/~heather/occs/honors/Poem.htm>.


CRITICAL ESSAYS 08

THE UNFORSEEN CONSEQUENCES OF PERFECTION A Comparative Analysis of Thomas More’s Utopia, Plato’s Republic, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World by Czarina Isabel de Leon

“What you can’t put right you must try to make as little wrong as possible. For things will never be perfect, until human beings are perfect - which I don’t expect them to be for quite a number of years…” –Thomas More, Utopia (p. 64) Have you ever envisioned a world where there is absolute equality? Maximum peace? Political and social stability? Total freedom? Secured working placement? And so on? Does perfection really have a place in this world? Hoping for a brighter future has never been a problem for many people. Human beings have the tendency to have such optimism for a better society and the drive to fight for what they think is best. The goal of devising a perfect system that employs all these things is the underlying aim and hope of the majority. However, people have different preferences even if they have the same aspiration. So, is it really possible? Everyone has their own versions of the “ideal.” All hopefuls of ideal societies are concerned to make the most of harmony and happiness, and to diminish, if not exterminate, conflict, misery and chaos. The question echoes: does this kind of society really exist? That is an emphatic yes in literature. But now, another question arises: are they worth imitating? As for the dictionary-based meaning of the word which describes this kind of flawless society, Utopia is defined as an ideal or perfect place or state. It is any visionary system of political or social perfection. The roots of the word are from the Greek ou (not) and topos (place), thus meaning “no place” or “nowhere”, although there are also overtones of “good place” from the homonymous Greek prefix eu meaning “good.” In literature, it refers to a detailed description of a nation or commonwealth ordered according to a system which the author proposes as a better way of life than any known to exist; a system that could be instituted if the present one could be cancelled and people could start over; an imaginary society organized to create conditions for human beings, eliminating hatred, pain, neglect, and all of the other evils of the world. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) belongs to this genre, the utopian literature. Despite this fact, books that include accounts of utopian societies were written long before Huxley’s novel. Its discovery is marked even before the 20th century commenced. Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia are prime examples that started this revolution. The societies illustrated are meant to represent the perfect society, but every so often utopias are created to satirize the existing social orders, or simply to speculate about what life might be like under different conditions. The horrors of a planned or totalitarian society are presented in what they called dystopias, places where things are badly wary. In this category—the dystopia—the Brave New World belongs. Nonetheless, in as much as utopian and dystopian texts are expected to be diverse from one another, other works’ presentations of utopian and dystopian worlds still manage to intertwine with each other. Plato’s Republic, More’s Utopia, and Huxley’s Brave New World are just few of the sets that can be evaluated as something supposedly different yet somehow imply similar effects. Many have always thought that the rapid advancement in the technological and scientific world is the key to an enhanced tomorrow. Try to imagine yourself in an unnatural world where most people are produced in factories, where there is no freedom or morality as you know it, and you are considered a savage because of your human origin. Brave New World is the outcome of the combination and Huxley’s application of his satirical skill and fascination for science. Its theme “is the advancement of science as it affects human individuals,” Huxley said in the Foreword he wrote in 1946, 15 years after he wrote the book. It depicts a world in which humans have become less-than-human by means of biotechnological and socio-scientific techniques. Procedures, events and experiences that are naturally done and in nature happen, as pregnancy, marriage, old age, are something horrifying and ghastly. According to William Matter, Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World, actually rebels against the idea of progress and mechanization, and he disallows the very concept of utopia. In many ways, Huxley’s novel predicts and prophesizes the major themes and struggles that dominated the twentieth century and that continue to rule the twenty-first century. Somehow these insightful predictions of the future are shockingly accurate in


CRITICAL ESSAYS

09 comparison of our world today in several areas; his interpretations and predictions on the casual and promiscuous sexual intercourse, the disposable relationships, the teaching and aiding the use of birth-control methods, the ignorance of many with literature and art, and the obsession with physical beauty and youthful appearance. On the other hand, Plato’s Republic is a more philosophical one. It deals with the examination of the good life—because, as Plato says, the perfect life can be led only under ideal conditions and as what his mentor, Socrates, believed that the unexamined life is not worth living—and the education of the future philosopher rulers. The central problem presented in this wonderful work is the nature of justice. Education is the second most important constituent in it. Also, there is a representation of the refutation of proverbial morality and traditional society. Other books in the Republic are engaged in a massive program of censorship. In this work, the individual must offer much of his freedom for the privilege of living in the heavenly city and pursuing the good. More’s Utopia, like Brave New World, is a satirical novel, indirectly criticizing Europe’s political corruption and attacking its religious hypocrisy, and also, like Plato’s, is a dialogue. It tackles more on faith, virtues, money, and politics. Utopia exposes the absurdities and evils of More’s society by depicting an alternative. Utopia provides a description of “the most civilized nation in the world” (More, 70). Knowing that Republic and Utopia are both included in the utopian category, the two have many resemblances, ranking from its general philosophy which is the happiness of the public to some issues considering the vast scope of the educational system and the principal ethics of the state, as Yeter çağlar (2007) points out in his master thesis. In contrast, though some scholars regard Huxley’s work as a utopian too, Brave New World is generally considered as a dystopian world in which a totalitarian government controls the society by the use of science and technology. Nevertheless, these three works of art share some of the same qualities of a society. A world where everyone is satisfied with who and where they are and what they have, and the main concern is the happiness of the society, as Plato, More, and Huxley present the idea that an imaginary world is, is in fact attainable, if not already attained (in Brave New World’s case), but not without some sacrifices. For to create a perfect world, as W. Matter indicates in his article, “many have to surrender few of their utmost desires to settle for the common good.” This is the principle idea that these three works and great minds share. Perfection coincides with sacrifices and forfeits. The different views on happiness depicted in Brave New World, Republic, and Utopia somehow varies, but end up having the same implication—not really experiencing genuine happiness at all. Miserably, the pursuit of happiness is carried out to an extreme, as Anthony Astrachan argues, in these works. “A society can achieve stability only when everyone is happy, and the Brave New World tries hard to ensure that every person is happy… It uses genetic engineering and conditioning to ensure that everyone is happy with his or her work.” In Huxley’s book, happiness has been mistakenly associated to lack of pain, lack of passion and lack of emotion, with the help of the soma drug. Freedom (as well as art and religion which are results of freedom) in this society has been sacrificed also for happiness. On the other side of the coin, Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia exude somehow a different kind of compromise. In More’s work, in order to attain the happiness of the society, the highest pleasures follow those who willingly sacrifice their own happiness for the happiness of others. Material properties and money are disregarded as a source of happiness. Utopia values the mind’s development: “cultivate his mind--which they regard as the secret of a happy life” (More 79), while in Plato’s masterpiece, one of the central claims is that justice and education are the means to the end, which is happiness. In addition, human happiness can result only from the fulfillment of man’s real nature. In Plato’s view, the average man mistakenly identified his self-interest with the satisfaction of his irrational desires, whereas man’s real self-interest and fulfillment of his true nature lay in the control of the irrational desires by reason. Another characteristic that these societies share is their outlook on familial matters. If in the views on happiness, Republic and Brave New World differ from each other, in this category however, they have identical delineations. In so far as the present world is concern, family is the building block of the society. In Utopia, “the smallest social unit is the household, which is virtually synonymous with the family” (More 79). Furthermore, families are patriarchal: “When a girl grows up and gets married, she joins her husband’s household, but the boys of each generation stay at home, under the control of their oldest male relative” (p. 79).


CRITICAL ESSAYS

10 The relationship between parents and children are highly valued. The nature in a family life is as what we have in the families of the current world. A parent supplies a child with love and trust, morals and values, and support. This is how families are depicted in More’s Utopia. While this sense of family is present in the said work of genius by More, the opposite of it is illustrated in the two other works. Akin to Brave New World, the importance and essence of family is abolished and destructed in the Republic. Astrachan makes a good point that because of the combination of genetic engineering, bottle-birth, and sexual promiscuity, the absence of monogamy, matrimony, or family is implemented. “Mother” and “father” are obscene words that may be used scientifically on rare, carefully chosen occasions to label ancient sources of psychological problems, in Brave New World. As for Republic, this idea is supported by the account stating, “All these women shall be wives in common to all the men, and not one of them shall live privately with any man; the children too should be held in common so that no parent shall know which is his own offspring, and no child shall know his parent” (Plato 119). In these seemingly perfect worlds, the caste system is also created and fashioned. The separation of people by professional class, assignment of profession and purpose by the state, replaced by state-organized breeding, was included by authors in descriptions of totalitarian governments. This is a theme that the three utopian literatures generally have in common. Plato does defend a strict division of classes, yet a person born into one class may move to another class if he or she has natural talents which fit in another class, but the system that he presents involves different levels or types of class: the philosopher kings, the military class (where guardians/ auxiliaries belong), and the working class. He regards the latter as fundamental to his vision of a perfect state; it provides the material needs for the rulers and military. In Thomas More’s Utopia, likewise, this same caste system applies. Though the titles of certain classes are not clearly emphasized or coined as that of the Republic’s, lower class, upper (or elite) class, and a caste called ‘intelligentsia’ are mentioned. As the two said crafts, Brave New World’s chaste system is evenly interesting and innovative. Their civilization has separated people into social classes by natural selection and has conditioned them to love and to be content with the classification they belong. People are categorized with the following taxonomy: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilons. Similar to Republic and Utopia, there is absence of class warfare for everyone is satisfied with the class they are in. Finally, the notions about religion and God. In Brave New World, religion is the worship of a mortal instead of a supreme being. Henry Ford is their god and they worship the letter “T” in honor of the Model T car. Crosses that probably represented Christianity and Christ were literally cut into “T’s”. Huxley recognizes the significance of having someone or something to idolize religiously for the idea it presents gives purpose to the lives of the citizens in the civilization. ‘I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.’ ---John, the Savage (Brave New World, 246) Comfort or God. Henderson (1964) points out these two opposing choices are the very options that the world is facing at the present. It is “a problem of the present, not of the future. For as the world is going we are getting more and more comfort every day, and yet comfort is proving insufficient for happiness…” (89). On the contrary, all faith and beliefs are tolerated except from atheism in Utopia. The “first principle is that every soul is immortal, and was created by a kind God” (More 91). None are forced to follow a certain manner of faith. Ironically, in as much this kind of religious tolerance sounds like it will lead to polytheism, More actually magnifies in Utopia that they are, though different, all but one God. Parallel to More’s concept of one God, Plato’s God is a construct of the World of Forms as of a supernatural being, as existing in Christianity. Plato’s Republic, Huxley’s Brave New World, and More’s Utopia contain a description of the perfect state, although they do this for different reasons and they arrive at different types of perfection. These are pretty various, sometimes horrid, at times pleasant, pictures Plato, More, and Huxley have painted, and they can be sure that any of their audience, after reading their works, will think twice before taking steps that might bring about such a calamity.


CRITICAL ESSAYS

11

Perhaps people had better not do anything about social injustice or international anarchy. A quotation in the front of Brave New World truthfully and agreeably tells that utopias are almost inevitable and that a day will come when intellectuals will dream of ways of avoiding utopias and returning to a society less ‘perfect’ but freer. Indeed, as many people aspire for the perfect world, a perfect society, all the more the actualization of it goes farther and farther.

Works Cited Çağlar, Yeter. “A comparative analysis of Thomas More’s utopia and Plato’s republic in the enhancement of teaching language procedure.” MA Thesis, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, Turkey, 2007. Belgeler. 14 Oct 2011. < http:// www.belgeler.com/blg/1394/a-comparative-analysis-of-thomas-more-s-utopia-and-plato-s-republic-in-theenhancement-of-teaching-language-procedure-thomas-more-un-utopyasi-ile-eflatun-un-devletinin-karsilastirilmasi-analizinin-dil-ogretim-surecine-katkisi# > Henderson, Alexander. “Brave New World.” Aldous Huxley. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1964. pp. 87-97. Print. Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1946. Print. Matter, William. “The Utopian Tradition and Aldous Huxley.” Indiana, USA: SF-TH Inc. DePauw University. 15 Oct 2011. <http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/6/matter6art.htm> More, Thomas. The Utopia of Sir Thomas More. New York: Macmillan, 1928. Print. Plato. The Republic of Plato.Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1948. Print


CRITICAL ESSAYS 12

IRELAND AS A POTENT SHAPING FORCE IN JAMES JOYCE’S DUBLINERS by John Rey Bencito

Born on February 2, 1882, James Joyce was the eldest son of John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Joyce. He was born in a time when Dublin was suffering from “British oppression, economic depression, and famine (James Joyce: Biography). He came from a middle class family and received education in Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit school. He received an education rooted deeply in the ideals of Catholicism. In college, however believing that the Roman Catholic Church had failed to alleviate the worsening condition of Ireland, he revolted against his education. He chose to go pursue his studies in Europe and despite his absence, he still got inspired to write about his homeland. Therefore, the struggles of Ireland as a country is mirrored in all his literary pieces. Composed of fifteen short stories, Joyce’s Dubliners was published in 1914. It focused on the characters’ state of paralysis brought about by quite a number of reasons such as “oppresive morality, routines, and inability to escape from their environment” (James Joyce: Biography). As Joyce himself describd it, “it is a tale of paralysis and frustration ending in anguish and anger” (Scholes and Litz ed. 257). Its publication was proved to be as tumultuous as the history of Ireland itself. The publishers, bewildered by Joyce’s allusions to the authorities of both Great Britain and Ireland and the use of obscene words, declined to have the book printed in 1906. Grant Richards argued that though he approves of Joyce’s idea of capturing the picture of the chaotic Dublin in a single book, the printers could not risk their reputation just to publish Dubliners. Instead, the publishers asked the author to omit some elements in the story that are seemingly offensive to both the authorities and to the people of Dublin. To this premise, Joyce replied, “What would remain of the book if I had to efface everything which might give offence? The title, perhaps” (273)? He argued that Dubliners is a social criticism and without these allusions and obscenity, its purpose will not be served. Nine years later, however Grant published the book, complete with fifteen short stories that sum up the whole city of Dublin. In his letter to Grant Richards, Joyce explicitly stated: My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the center of paralysis. (269) To achieve this purpose, Joyce divided the book into four aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life. Through the creation of characters, some of which are based from real people, the author described how the Dubliners’ lives seem to be affected by the tumult that the whole country was facing that time. That said, this paper aims to show that the paralysis of Ireland in the late 1800s and early 1900s heavily influences the decisions of the characters to remain in the heart of Dublin. Included in the Dubliners is a short story entitled “Eveline,” which focuses on the main character’s dilemma of weighing her options. The story begins with Eveline, sitting by the window at dusk. Upon viewing this scene, she becomes reminiscent of the past as she explains the changes that the avenue has undergone over the years. She begins to re-examine her home, knowing that there is the looming possiblity of leaving all things she sees behind as she faces the next chapter of her life with Frank. Then she tries to weigh her options. Her first option is to remain in Dublin. The narrator says, “She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise? In her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all her life about her” (37) . She counters this option; she argues about being married to Frank, who is “very kind, manly, and open-hearted” (38) . That said, she believes that people would respect her and would never be maltreated like her deceased mother. The danger that Eveline’s father could cause persuades her to continue her life with Frank in Buenos Ayres. Also, she is becoming alarmed with “the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights” (38) . Eveline considers all these and it seems, she will finally be opting to move on to the next chapter of her life as a married woman. However, her promise to her mother to “keep the home together as long as she could,” (40) reverberated in her head, leaving Eveline in a state of shock. In the end, she remains stuck to her life as a nineteen year old girl living under the control of an abusive father: He (Frank) rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of


CRITICAL ESSAYS

13

love or farewell or recognition. (41) On the other hand, the short story “A Boarding House,” introduces us to Mrs. Mooney, a daughter of a butcher. She is married to a man who loses life direction after the demise of his father-in-law. The narrator describes: But as soon as his father-in-law was dead Mr Mooney began to go to the devil. He drank, plundered the till, ran along in debt. It was no use making him take the pledge: he was sure to break out again a few days after. By fighting his wife in the presence of customers and by buying bad meat he ruined his busi ness. (61) Her husband soon turns violent and this forces their relationship to crumble. Being the strong woman that she is, Mrs Mooney builds up a boarding house using the remaining money from her previous meat business. The boarding house she built soon becomes inhabited with young men, each paying fifteen shillings to Madam. Described in the story as a “shrewd judge,” Mrs. Mooney knows when to intervene in her daughter’s affairs. Her daughter Polly is a nineteen year-old teenager who apparently is engaged in an affair with Mr. Doran, who lives in Mrs. Polly’s boarding house. Going back, she chooses to confront Mr. Doran about the affair. The narrator subtly prompts that Mrs Mooney requests Mr Doran to marry her daughter in the end. Quite unaware of the mother-daughter connivance, Doran is forced to grant Madam’s request. The theme of paralysis is tackled through Mr. Doran’s character. In a way, he becomes a mirror image of Eveline in a sense that he too, is experiencing difficulties in weighing all his options. The narrator states, “Going down the stairs his glasses became so dimmed with moisture that he had to take them off and polish them. He longed to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where he would never hear again of his trouble” (67-68) . However, all his plans of escaping gets hindered by his religion. Also included in the Dubliners is “A Painful Case,” which tackles the character of Mr. Duffy who “lived in Chapelizod because he wished to live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern, and pretentious (107) . His life is based on routines; he eats at the same restaurants and does his job as a cashier in a private bank every single day. His obsession with his routines costs him his chance at love. He realizes this after the reality of the news about Mrs. Sinico’s death sinks into him. He states: One human being had seemed to love him and he had denied her life and happiness: he had sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame... No one wanted him; he was outcast from life’s feast (117) . These paralyses of Eveline, Mr. Doran, and Mr. Duffy can be attributed to the paralysis that the chaotic state of Ireland was facing in the late 1800s, a time when the country yearned for independence from Great Britain. Ireland had been ruled by the British monarchy for decades. This sparked the animosity between the British and the Irish and the fact that the former views the latter as “uneducated, superstitious, and poor” (James Joyce: Biography) did not help in patching up the enmity between the two. During the 1880s, Charles Stewart Parnell emerged as a crucial “advocate of Irish Home Rule” (James Joyce: Biography) . Earning support from the Irish community, composed mainly of Catholics he used his experience in politics to solidify Ireland’s stand against the control of British monarchy. However, Parnell succumbed to the dangers of being a public figure as his critics, composed mainly of the Unionists who favored to “maintain the ties between Ireland and Britain” (James Joyce: Biography) used his personal life against him to deter his cause. His engagement in an adulterous affair with a married woman tainted his reputation and discredited him as a potent leader. This instance weakened him and led to his death in 1891. Parnell’s demise marked the end of his promise of an independent Ireland, free from the grip of the British throne. The Catholics, defeated by the British find themselves in a chaotic situation. The Dubliners are “oppressed by financial problems, foreign (British) political dominance, rival Irish nationalist groups, and the Irish Catholic church” (James Joyce: Biography) . Because of these factors, they find themselves caught in a state of shock as they experience spiritual and moral crises rooted in Parnell’s broken dream of Ireland’s independence. Eveline shows her moral crisis through the difficulties in weighing her options. Is it wise for her to stay true to her mother’s final wish though she gets incessantly abused by her father? Is it better for her to try a new angle of her life


CRITICAL ESSAYS

14

with Frank whose job as a sailor proves to be risky, in Buenos Ayres though her love for him is still uncertain? Her failure to move on to her married life with Frank roots in the uncertainties that the late 1800s and early 1900s have generated. She is unsure of the life she will be facing in Buenos Ayres and that causes her state of paralysis. Since Dublin is oppressed by financial problems, she can not take the risk of leaving everything behind to live an entirely new life with Frank. It can also be noted that Frank’s is constantly at peril due to his job as a sailor. She preferred to stay safe in Dublin, holding true to her promise to her mother over having an entirely new life with Frank. Mr. Doran manifests spiritual crisis in the same manner. Since Dubliners’s lives are heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic church, Mr. Doran resorts to conform with the ideals of Catholism: He echoed her phrase, applying it to himself: What am I to do? The instinct of a celibate warned him to hold back. But the sin was there; even his sense of honour told him that reparation must be made for such a sin. (67) From these lines, the readers can see how Mr Doran’s decisions are shaped by the Catholic Church. His religion superimposes his desire to escape from the predicament he is facing. This leads to the completion of the Mooneys’ scheme of forcing Doran to marry Polly. On the other hand, the paralysis of Mr. Duffy roots in his obsession with his predictable life. It is interesting to note that he was an activist in the past. However, in this story, it is noticeable that he wants to stay out of chaos, causing him to curtail his relationship with Mrs. Sinico. This is the effect of the tumultuous events that time on him. It can be argued that he yearns to live a peaceful life in the middle of a chaotic country. He sacrifices his only chance at love to turn back to his predictable life, just to stay out of trouble. The world has never witnessed a more turbulent history than that of Ireland. Through the use of these texts, Joyce was able to tell the way the events that transpired in the late 1800s and the early 1900s shaped the future of the characters in the text. The chaotic state of Ireland forces the characters to be in a state of paralysis.

Works Cited “Dubliners – James Joyce and the Short Story | Writer’s Notebook.” Writer’s Notebook | ‘When inspiration comes, I want it to find me working.’ Pablo Picasso. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2011. <http://www.writersnotebook. co.uk/?page_id=169>. Gifford, Don, and James Joyce. Notes for Joyce: Dubliners and A portrait of the artist as a young man,. [1st ed. New York: Dutton, 1967. Print. “James Joyce: Biography and Context for Reading.” N.p., 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2011. <jneff.wikispaces. com/file/view/James+Joyce+an> Joyce, James, Robert Scholes, and A. Walton Litz. Dubliners: Text, criticism, and notes edited by Robert Scholes and A. Walton Litz.. Reprinted with corrections. ed. New York: Viking Press, 1969. Print.


CRITICAL ESSAYS

SCIENCE AND UTOPIA IN ALDOUS HUXLEY’S BRAVE NEW WORLD

15

by Adeliene Eve Paraso

The effect of science on Modernist literature is, for the most part, debatable. It must be noted that very little scientific references can be found in the works of writers during this period (Deery 1). That being said, the connection of science and the utopian imagination is also up for argument. Aldous Huxley is certainly not the first to make the association, though this study would focus on his 1932 novel, Brave New World, and its effect as a literary text. This paper aims to show the scientific references found in the novel and its relevance in establishing utopia—or rather, a false utopia. Conversely, this paper will also show how science fails to build the utopian ideal of “peace and order” (Mendelsohn and Nowotny vii). Effects of this link between science and utopia will also be shown towards the end of the paper. The beginning of the 1900s not only brought the start of the twentieth century but also of modern advancements in science. New advancements in physics, namely the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, were developed in the first half of the century. Genetics was by then widely accepted. The first airplane was flown in 1903. New materials, such as Teflon and Velcro, came to use. The number of household appliances increased significantly. Henry Ford built the first automobile in 1901, and the use of the assembly line became popular in the manufacture of automobiles. Fordism, an economic and social system based on industrial mass production, became popular in the 1920s. To put it simply, life became easier as man gained more knowledge about his world. Though the name Einstein became a household name (and almost with Ford), there remained “an ignorance among intellectuals, the split between scientist and nonscientist, and even among scientists” (Deery 16). This included the literati as well. Aldous Huxley, given his background and knowledge on science, was indignant. He called the literary men who “are not merely not ashamed to confess their total ignorance of all facts of a “scientific” order, but even make a boast out of it” as “arrogant fools” (qtd. in Deery 17). Huxley was disappointed with the fact that writers lacked an interest in scientific ideas and theories because he believed that science is necessary in building a philosophy of nature and man (18). But it was ironic because Modernist writers themselves acted like scientists. Their innumerable use of allusion made them difficult and in a way, “technical” (18). Again, this was a given for Huxley, knowing his history. Aldous Huxley was born on July 6, 1894 in Surrey, England. He was the youngest parents were Leonard and Julia Huxley. The Huxley family was famous and Aldous had a distinguished ancestry. His grandfather was Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist who was known for being a strong advocate of Charles Darwin’s theory. His father, Leonard, was a Classics scholar and editor of the Cornhill Magazine. His mother, one of Matthew Arnold’s grand-nieces, was a founder of a girls’ school. His older brother, Julian, was a celebrated biologist like their grandfather. He had a half-brother by his father’s second marriage, Andrew, who is currently a physiologist and biophysicist (in 1963—the same year of Aldous’ death—he won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine). Given these, it is not surprising that Aldous Huxley is well-versed in science and technology. It is certainly understandable that he is one of the few writers to “explicitly and repeatedly refer to scientific ideas in his writing” (Deery 18). All his works relate to science, whether it is a direct or indirect reference. Though his family leaned more towards the biological area of study, Huxley was more inclined to the study of physics. Deery explained: “Biology has become important in the previous century, but in the early twentieth century physics was the field where the most significant discoveries were being made” (19). Huxley recognized this and took the time to learn about the study of Einstein and his contemporaries. Even with his interest in science, Huxley’s degree was in English literature (he graduated with honors from Oxford). He was primarily a writer; thus he looked for a form that would accommodate his interest in science. He found the answer in the form of a utopian novel which he used three times: in Brave New World (1932), Ape and Essence (1948) and Island (1962). He chose this form because “despite its misgivings, it legitimized


CRITICAL ESSAYS

16

didacticism and could perform the important cultural function of assessing the wider impact of contemporary and future technologies” (Deery 33). But there is more to it that makes the utopian form suitable for Huxley’s integration of science in his works. Part of the utopia’s power lies in its peculiar ontology. Because it is fictional, readers can imaginatively ‘enter’ it and

believe they are witnessing it successfully working. But they must also recognize that the society depicted does not exist in actuality, which is why the author is trying to persuade them that it ought (or in a dystopia, ought not) to exist: this mode is… imperative realism. If successfully done, the reader accepts that the imagined society does (verisimilitude) and does not (imperative realism) exist…. By drawing on the convention of the fictional creation of another world, the utopist is able to construct a model that allows ideas to be tested and viewed from several angles. As an hypothesis [sic], a testing ground, the utopia resembles the scientific method (Deery 34).

This is certainly seen in Brave New World, his first utopian novel. But rather than the perfect society built on science, we are faced with a “false utopia” brought about by the same foundation. Brave New World is known to be Huxley’s most famous work. The title comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “O wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,/ That has such people in’t!” (qtd in Watts 72). But for the literary allusion from the title, the novel is bombarded with scientific “advancements”. First of which is the Bokanovsky Process. The Bokanovsky Process is, in simple terms, cloning. It follows the procedure of artificial embryo twinning, which copies the natural process of creating twins (“What is Cloning?”). By nature, twins are formed when a zygote (a fertilized egg and sperm) splits into two after maturing. It results into two separate zygotes that will grow separately inside the mother’s womb, but because they came from the same fertilized ovum, they will turn out genetically identical. Artificial embryo twinning mimics this ex vivo—meaning, outside the body or living organism. In the novel, this occurs in test tubes, and the artificial embryo twinning is called “budding” (Huxley 3). This then eliminates viviparous reproduction and by extension, the role and the very existence of mothers— parents. Similarly, the Bokanovsky process is “the principle of mass production at last applied to biology” (4). It is likened to the process of making automobiles (in a conveyer belts), only here– babies are made instead of cars. Next to Bokanovskification is “preconditioning” which occurs in the Bottling Room. In preparation, Liners come up and place Bokanovskified buds in bottles from test tubes; the Matriculators pour in the saline solution; and the Labellers mark the bottles according to heredity, date of fertilization, membership of Bokanovsky group, etc. Then the bottles move to the Social Predestination Room, where the real conditioning begins. Predestinators are God-like in the sense that they decide which caste system a certain Bokanovsky group will belong to. The caste groups are as follows: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. These are subdivided further into Alpha Double Plus, Alpha Plus, Beta Plus, Epsilon Sub-Moron, etc. There are only seven Alpha Double Pluses, the World Controllers, while there are numerous Epsilon Sub-Morons that could be the next elevator guy, deliverer, etc. The caste you belong to defines your character, as is your conditioning: “The lower the caste, the shorter the oxygen” (9). This results in “predestined” persons: Alphas are the smartest while the Epsilon Sub-Morons, as the name suggests, are lower than idiots. Another scientific “advancement” is hypnopædia, or sleep teaching. From childhood to teenage years, children listen to recorded tapes that impart wisdom to them while sleeping. It was discovered when Reuben Rabinovitch was able to recite a radio broadcast after his parents left the radio on during his sleep. It was then that they realized they could effectively teach children while sleeping. The process has a pattern of alternately playing different ‘lessons’ per a number of times given a specific frame period. One example would be the ‘Fordian’ (after their supposed “God”, Ford—for Henry Ford) proverb, “Everyone belongs to everyone else” which has a sequence of “one hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years” (31). The effect of this is a predisposition in beliefs and truths of their civilized world. There is also “soma” in the civilized world. It is a drug, presumably a narcotic or an antidepressant that they receive and take regularly. It serves as a super paracetamol, like an enhanced Tylenol (or Biogesic, in the Philippine context), which people use in times of physical or mental distress. As the hypnopædic saying goes,


CRITICAL ESSAYS

17

“A gramme [of soma] is better than a damn” which roughly translates to “A gram of soma a day takes the pain away! (Not that they can limit themselves to one gram of soma per day)” (36). This, in effect, creates a world where everybody is perpetually happy, or at least narcotic. These are just some of the many references to science in Brave New World. But the question is how do these fit in the utopian vision? Simply put, it instructs peace and order in their civilized world. Because of birth conditioning, the caste system is perfected. Epsilons do not ask why they were given their lot in life because they were conditioned to work that way. They probably do not even feel dissatisfied with their lives, hence their not questioning it. Birth conditioning then “eliminates” the possibility of usurpation because everyone is taught to be content with their place in the caste. Also, advancements in science enable a kind of “perfect life” maintenance. People age but do not show it physically. They remain forever immaculate—perfect. All of these in turn strengthen the political stability of the civilized world. However, we all know that this novel is not utopian at all. Rather, it presents a false utopia—it presents science as the key to dystopian nightmares and distorts the scientific faith in material and social progress (Mendelsohn and Nowotny vii, Watts 73). First of all, the caste system and conditioning are mandatory processes that point towards conformity. People in the civilized world are in essence, stripped off personal choice. Everything is predestined to act in a certain way. Because of hypnopædia, submission to the conditions of one’s caste becomes painless. This then leads to their incapability of forming their own opinions and judgments (Watts 77). Second, it must be noted that science is never one hundred percent accurate. There is at most ninety-nine percent chance of success and one percent chance of failure. In short, there will always be exceptions. These are seen in the cases of Bernard Marx, who is physically “abnormal” (not having the body type of his caste, Alpha Plus) and Helmholtz Watson, who is mentally “abnormal” (having too much knowledge even with his Alpha Plus standing). What one lacks, the other has in excess. An imbalance is then formed in the civilized world. What more from the world outside civilization? This brings us to the third argument—that there is no such thing as total control. Even though Bernard and Helmholtz live in the civilized world, they are both aware of the world outside civilization, represented by the Reservation and consequently, John the Savage. The fact that a reservation exists for the uncivilized means that total control was never achieved in the first place. There remain to be “savages”, who are closer to us than the civilized characters in the novel. They are the ones who were born out of their mothers’ wombs and taught by the elders of their tribe. They have the capacity to think, to deicide and to form opinions for and by themselves. This is highlighted by John’s rejection of the civilized world, even though he is “civilized” by birth (having both civilized parents) and “savage” by upbringing. We are eventually led to believe that science does not fully establish utopia and therefore fails, just as “soma” fails to do more than alleviate their stress; it certainly does not erase their problems (Watts 79). Finally, we are presented with a dystopian view of the world rather than a utopian ideal. The effects of science and utopia in Brave New World may be divided into three: humor, Fordism, and commentary. Comedy in the novel is derived mainly from the scientific references rather than its link with utopia, but there is humor. One can say that it is more dry humor than actual comic, and we can see this in Huxley’s choice of names: Ford, from Henry Ford, as God; Bernard Marx, presumably from Karl Marx, as the protagonist; and even Helmholtz Watson, presumably Dr. Watson from Sherlock Homes. There is also humor in the hypnopædic proverbs, which are real aphorisms that Huxley twists around. Two examples would be “Cleanliness is next to fordliness,” and “A doctor a day keeps the jimjams away” (81, 126). But perhaps one of the greatest humors in the novel is the “orgy-porgy” song and ritual. Huxley parodies love, and is shown as a euphemism for animal lust (Deery 39). Fordism, from Henry Ford, is the economic and social system characterized by mass production (“Fordism & Postfordism”). Ironically in the novel the civilized people call their god Ford. It certainly fits them. Because of the Bokanovsky process, people in the civilized world have become an army of twins. Face after face after face;


CRITICAL ESSAYS

18

all look the same. At the same time, the idea of mass production also implies the “cog in the machine” idiom. The caste system conditions the Beta, for example, in the Bottling Room; while the Epsilon Sub-Moron pushes buttons in elevators. The lower caste then becomes a cog; they cannot function more than they were conditioned to do. Take them out of what they were conditioned to do and they become useless. Only the Betas and Alphas are technically useful. “More often Huxley prefers direct commentary” (Deery 46). The brave new world, through a “scientific” representation of utopia, becomes a farce. The utopian vision is one of motionless state, not of progression. Through science, the people living in London (the brave new world) never age. This is seen in the novel when Linda and Marx come across an old Indian. Marx explains the reason why people in London do not look aged:

“That’s because we don’t allow them to be like that. We preserve them from diseases. We keep their internal sere tions artificially balanced at a youthful equilibrium. We don’t permit their magnesium-calcium ratio to fall below what it was at thirty. We give them transfusion of young blood. We keep their metabolism permanently stimulated. So, of course, they don’t look like that.” (Huxley 73-74)

Science as the epitome of advancement is therefore made farcical. This adds to the parody of the “orgy-porgy” euphemism. Furthermore, there is also social commentary in Brave New World. We see this most prominently in John the Savage. He becomes the median of the two worlds in the novel. His ‘parents’ are from the civilized world, but he was brought up among the savages. Huxley explains in the foreword of this novel: “The Savage is offered only two alternatives, an insane life in Utopia, or the life of a primitive in an Indian village, a life more human in some respects, but in others hardly less queer and abnormal” (vii). He does not fit in with the latter and fails in assimilating the former. He then becomes an outsider of both worlds; and because he cannot reconcile with either, he kills himself. Huxley then allows no compromises for the Savage, though this argument is debatable. In the end, we are presented with the picture of science and dystopia, rather than science and utopia. Aldous Huxley uses the utopian form to show the dangers of science to man. The novel “speaks of the realization in the future of possibilities that are only stirring in the present” (Watts 73). However, the novel must not be seen as a moralizing text. It does not preach or nag; it merely offers (a view) and suggests. It must be accepted for what it is, a literary work of fiction.

Works Cited Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Row, 1932. Print. “Fordism & Postfordism.” Willamette University. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. <http://www. willamette. edu/~fthompso/MgmtCon/Fordism_&_Postfordism.html>. Deery, June. Aldous Huxley and the Mysticism of Science. Hampshire: MacMillan Press Ltd, 1996. Print. Mendelsohn, Everett and Helga Nowotny, eds. Nineteen Eighty-four: Science Between Utopia and Dystopia. Holland: D. Reidel, 1984. Print. Genetic Science Learning Center. “What is Cloning?.” Learn.Genetics™. The University of Utah, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. <http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/tech/cloning/ whatiscloning/>. Watts, Harold H. Aldous Huxley. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969. Print.


CRITICAL ESSAYS

ON THE EDGE by Czarina Isabel de Leon

19

The earth, humanity—all that we around us—had a beginning. God created each phase of creation ‘good’—until He created the first man, Adam, and believed that it was ‘not good’ for him to be alone. So Eve, the first woman and the Mother of Mankind, was created and the original couple was given everything to enjoy. They were only forbidden to eat the fruit of one tree: the Tree of Knowledge. The fatal decision of the two noble and god-like beings that followed, their disobedience to God, and its tragic results have affected all human account. Humanity would pass down this fatal flaw, this inner corruption, from generation to generation. This is the primary story of the historical event that happened in that very Garden of Eden, and the rest was history. Most people thought that sin, the act of disobeying God, was first committed at the Paradise when Adam and Eve had a bite from the fruit of the forbidden tree. But we have to understand here is that sin was a huge matter, it always has been. Sin is NOT doing what the Creator has commanded. It is running away from His plans, choosing the lesser good than the best. Sin is like missing the mark, and trespassing what is meant to be restricted. Sin here is like a big step for a baby climbing in a staircase. Of course, before he gets into treading on that level, the big stairway, he has to learn or to experience first how to walk and how to hike little baby steps. Thus, concluding that Adam and Eve had fallen out little by little in their walk. What they committed was not an overnight thing. They had predetermined and established where they would put their trust and beliefs in to before the biting of the fruit even occurred. They started from giving in to seemingly small seductions of sin until the nibbling of the fruit, the concrete example of disobedience, the edge from good and evil was passed. Everything starts with something small. A fire begins with a little flame. Small habits turn in to lifelong values. A one degree mistake in reading a compass can get someone lost. The two had been warned yet Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and to their personal desires. They were pushed farther until there was no point of return. The biting of the apple just drew the line, it is not [precisely] when and where they started to disobey God, for giving in to temptation is already part of the package of sin. The tragedy of Adam and Eve where they fell out of grace and where thrown out from the Garden of Eden was the central theme of the Paradise Lost. As Helen Gardner puts it, the poem is, as the title makes it clear, about ‘the loss of Eden, or Adam Unparadised.’ As Milton’s Paradise Lost focused on the central characters in the poem, Adam and Eve, their conduct raised some of the most important points in arguments. Many questions arise, but some outstand: What exactly is their sin? When did it exactly happen? What pushed them to do it? And, who is to blame? To answer the queries at hand, we shall have to study the disposition and conduct of Adam and Eve separately, for they are not designed as equal and alike. Both represent the race of humankind, but individually, they stand for different sexes which distinguishes one to another. The similarities and distinctions in the virtues of Adam and Eve are described in order to show how these attributes contribute to the fall of Man. Their human characteristics and deliberate series of actions lead them both to make their own decision to disobey God. These traits are laid out by Milton in Book IV, as Satan describes the two as: Two of far nobler shape erect and tall,

Godlike erect, with native Honour clad In naked Majestie seemd, for in thir looks Divine The image of thir glorious Maker shon, Truth, wisdom, Sanctitude severe and pure, Severe but in true filial freedom plac’t; Whence true autoritie in men; … (P.L. IV, 288-295)

But as the two are described as seemingly identical for they both were created in the image of God, they are actually not equal. They are differentiated by Milton through their traits and their God-appointed roles in the paradise:


CRITICAL ESSAYS 20

For contemplation hee and valour formd, For softness shee and sweet attractive Grace, Hee for God only, shee for God in him: (P. L. IV, 297-299)

Mental superiority, gallantry and physical strength distinguish Adam from Eve. He was shaped and designed to work, to protect, and to decide. His leadership skills and ruling should be over than that of the first woman. And as of Eve, she was intended for something different. Gentleness and charm were God’s gift to her. She was also destined to be submitted under Adam’s rule as well as God’s while Adam should absolutely devote himself to God only. As much as the feminists would hate it, the truth is that Eve [who represents the womankind] is meant to be the weaker vessel. In addition, Eve was designed with a double responsibility of obedience—a duty to obey Adam as well as God. In John Diekhoff ’s commentary on Paradise Lost, he said, “Milton is concerned not only with man’s duty to God, but also man’s obligation to man—with human relationships and human conduct.” The connection that Milton magnifies here is the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife. His fair large Front and Eye sublime declar’d Absolute rule; and Hyacinthin Locks Round from his parted forelock manly hung Clustring, but not beneath his shoulders broad: Shee as a vail down to the slender waste Her unadorned golden tresses wore Dissheveld, but in wanton ringlets wav’d As the Vine curls her tendrils, which impli’d Subjection, but requir’d with gentle sway, And by her yeilded, by him best receiv’d, Yeilded with coy submission, modest pride, And sweet reluctant amorous delay. (P.L. IV, 300-311)

The submission that the wife should have offered to his husband, and the absolute rule and leading of the husband over the wife were required just as Milton had written for they were destined and made that way. Absolute rule for Adam and Subjection for Eve—this was how the relationship was designed to work, not the other way around. Milton was saying that Adam is the head, the source of reason in family life, and should rule— should be granted obedience, which means he doesn’t need to demand it by force to anyone for in nature God gave him that power over all the creatures including his wife. Eve’s submission, on the other hand, is “requir’d with gentle sway,/ And by her yielded, by him best receiv’d.” But in Book IX, role reversal occurred: ... Thou therefore now advise

Or hear what to my mind first thoughts present, Let us divide our labours, thou where choice Leads thee, or where most needs... ...while I In yonder Spring of Roses intermixt With Myrtle, fin to what to redress till Noon:... (P.L. IX, 212-215, 217-219) The next lines manifest how they discuss on how they are going to divide their work, where Adam did

not consent to, reminding Eve of the danger in case the Enemy appears. Persistent of her proposal, however, Eve still urged her husband in to parting ways. In the end, Eve won and Adam yielded to what her wife recommended. Overcome here by his wife’s charm, rather than her ‘clever proposal,’ he overlooked his responsibility as the leader and the head, ignored Raphael’s warnings, and forgot about his superiority. It is when Eve failed this duty that the enemy got the best of her. It is because Adam fails to fulfil the responsibility given to him, which is to lead, to instruct and to be the one who makes the decisions for them, and


CRITICAL ESSAYS

21 to protect Eve that the serpent had the chance to get to his wife. The role reversal happened in the following parts of the work is one of the crucial incidents that happened for it signalled their control over what they are not meant to change. Their exchange of positions is one of the turning points why everything ended up the way it did. In the following sections of the poem, it is said that Eve’s real motive why she insistently pushed Adam to consent on her going apart is to seek temptation. Her proposal is just an excuse, or ‘justification’ of her own personal desire, even though she doesn’t intend to totally give way to it. According to E. M. W. Tillyard, Eve succumbs to it because of her triviality of mind: Eve shows little strength of feeling: it is not so much excess of passion as triviality of mind that is her

ruin. She is a prey to a variety of feelings, but it is always this triviality that allows her thus to be preyed on. First comes susceptibility to flattery...Then she is unwary...Just before following Satan to the Tree she is called ‘our credulous Mother.’ Confronted by the Tree for a moment she recollects herself and makes a faint resistance; but a single long speech of Satan is enough to overcome it.

Just as it is evident that Eve was appreciative of her God-given beauty and charm—very much indebted I may say: With unexperienc’t thought, and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the cleer Smooth Lake, that to me seemd another Skie. As I bent down to look, just opposite, A Shape within the watry gleam appeerd Bending to look on me, I started back, It started back, but pleas’d I soon returnd, Pleas’d it returnd as soon with answering looks Of sympathie and love; there I had fixt Mine eyes till now, and pin’d vain desire... (P.L. IV, 457-466)

that the Enemy got to catch her attention easily through it with a little flattery, which resulted “Into her heart too easie entrance won.” (P.L. IX, 734) Eve is vain, and her weakness to flattery is strategically used by the Enemy to gain her trust. Feeding her vanity, it leads her to hubris. The evidence of pride at this stage—the fact that “God-head” was in her thoughts— is apparent. Her own desires to know more and to understand more about thing as God does are the things that pushed her, not the flattery alone. This desire can also be remember as the reason why Satan fell beforehand. In addition to this, doubt started to lurk in Eve’s mind and it was a necessary prelude to disobedience. It was not that she didn’t believe in God, but that she started to believe the serpent, the king of lies, Satan. Thoughts are very delicate, and once it is deceived, truth can already be easily twisted and distorted. Adam and Eve were given the obligation to take responsibility of right conduct, and this included their thoughts which were based upon right thinking: But God left free the Will, for what obeyes

Reason, is free, and Reason he made right, But bid her well beware, and still erect, Least by some faire appeering good surpris’d She dictate false, and misinforme the Will To do what God expressly hath forbid. (P.L. IX, 351-356)

When Eve became receptive to the lies of the serpent, she had become prone to merging lies with truths. After the foundation of truth was unearthed, every moral implanted in her was ready to be shaken. That was what happened to Eve. Having specifically warned by Adam earlier, she still inclined to her own unreliable instinct and emotion. While Eve fell through hubris and doubt, Adam fell through passion. Gregariousness is the reason, says


CRITICAL ESSAYS 22 Tillyard:

It is certainly not sensuality. Adam’s passions are in no wise roused: he merely voices the natural human instinct of compradeship with his kind.

But if it is just companionship, then, I guess, it would just be easy for him to realize that God can simply make another Eve in replacement of her, making him care less about what Eve had gotten herself into. Therefore, it can be concluded that it is not the loss of company that Adam cannot accept, but it is the loss of his love, Eve. Certain my resolution is to Die; How can I live without thee, how forgoe They sweet Converse and Love so dearly joyn’d, To live again in these wilde Woods forlorn? Should God create another Eve, and I Another Rib afford, yet loss of thee Would never from my heart; no no, i fell The Link of Nature draw me; Flesh of Flesh, Bone of my Bone thou art, and from thy State Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe. (P.L. IX, 906-916)

And,

Certain to undergoe like doom, if Death Consort with thee, Death is to mee as Life; So forcible within my heart I feel The Bond of Nature draw me to my owne, My own in thee, for what thou art is mine; Our State cannot be severd, we are one, One Flesh; to loose thee were to loose my self. (P.L. IX, 953-959)

And here is where another turning point in the epic can be seen. The decision made by Adam explained his succeeding actions. As he put his love for Eve before his love for God, he just committed idolatry. Adam had determined ahead of time, therefore, who among God and Eve would he choose, and he picked the wrong choice. Reason departed from him as he, just like Eve, let his emotions and personal desires dominate over reason. He willingly chose what he thought would satisfy him, even if he knew that he would violate what God had commanded. Just like Eve, he ignored the counsel of his reasoning and gave in to the yearning of his flesh. He chose the good than the best. He picked Eve than the Almighty God. The progression from where everything began (the creation of Adam and Eve in this case) to where it ended up (their Fall) is not simple. There are other elements than hubris, role reversal, lack of faith & wrong belief, and idolatry that caused the Fall of Man, but these primary baby steps led our first Parents to the edge of Mankind’s downfall. These are seemingly minor things that contribute to the major. Nevertheless, I am still grateful for there is a sequel to this tragic epic poem, Paradise Regained, where Grace is showered through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is through Him that we are freed from the bondage of the very first disobedience, from the slavery of sin. Works Cited Diekhoff, John. Milton’s Paradise Lost: A Commentary on the Argument. New York: The Humanities Press, Inc. 1958. Print. Feb 2011. Evans, J. M. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Great Britain: Oxford U Press. 1968. Print. Feb 2011. Gardner, Helen. A Reading of the Paradise Lost. Great Britain: Oxford U Press. 1965. Print. Feb 2011. Hanford, James H. A Milton Handbook. New York: F.S. Crofts and Co. 1946. Print. Feb 2011. Shawcross, John T., ed. The Complete Poetry of John Milton. New York: Knopf Group. Aug 1971. Print Feb 2011. Tillyard, E. M. W., ed. Milton (Paradise Lost: Bk. 9 & 10). London: George G.Harrap & Co Ltd. Dec 1960. Print. Feb 2011.


CRITICAL ESSAYS

23

NATIVIDAD MARQUEZ: DID PHILIPPINE LITERATURE LEAVE YOU IN ITS FLIGHT? by Adeliene Eve Paraso Natividad Marquez is the sister of the matriarch of Philippine Literature, Paz Marquez Benitez. Unlike her sister, she had a short literary career, opting instead to enter the convent after publishing a few poems. At present, there are only five poems known to be written by her: “The Sampaguita,” “Requiem,” “Stranger at the Door,” “The Sea,” and “The Angelus.” She is most known for her poem “The Sampaguita,” published in 1924. This paper aims to show her contribution in Philippine Literature—the use of “child-like quality” voice in poetry. At the same time, this paper will connect the influence of English Romantic literature to Natividad’s writing during the period of imitation during the 1920s. This paper hopes to achieve thus by drawing parallels between the theme of her poetry (as well as its form) and the Romantic strain in English. In the end, this paper will try to position Natividad Marquez in the milieu of Philippine writers in English.

The American period brought English language to the Philippines upon their settlement in 1898. Along with this came the literature to be taught in schools. The Thomasites introduced American and English literature to Filipinos in schools. The Romantic School of American writers—Irving, Bryant, Poe, Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow and Whitman—became models of early Filipino writers. Similarly, the Romantic-Victorian school of English writers also became models, particularly Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb, Tennyson, Browning, Thackeray and Macaulay; as well as the timeless Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer. Generally, the period from 1900 to 1935 is known as the period of imitation. This is because Filipino writers imitated American and English writers (Serrano and Ames 1). This is not surprising given the background of writers during that time. Most of them were students in college or graduates whose literary studies were mainly English and American texts. This period is also called the period of imitation because apart from imitating Western literature, writers also strictly adhered to conventional rules of grammar and rhetoric. Many of the first Filipino writers in English came from the University of the Philippines which was founded in 1908. It became the center of literary effort, strengthened by the publication of the UP Folio in September 1910. This was where the first attempts of Filipino writing in English can be seen. From 1915 to 1925 a large number of poems, short stories and essays were written by a group of writers. Serrano and Ames listed “the more outstanding” of them, including Fernando Maramag, Jose M. Hernandez, Fransisco G. Tonogbanua, Carlos P. Romulo, Jorge C. Bocobo, Maximo M. Kalaw, Mauro Mendez, and Vidal A. Tan (2). But they were not the only writers during that decade. Natividad Marquez also belonged to this period. Natividad Marquez was born in Laguna, Tayabas on February 16, 1901. She is the fourth daughter of Maria Jurado and Gregorio Marquez. Her older sister is the famous Paz Marquez Benitez. She graduated from UP with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in 1919; Ph. B. with highest honors in 1921. She taught history in the UP College of Liberal Arts (now College of Arts and Letters), but retired in 1924 due to failing health. In 1933, she returned to begin her graduate studies in the College of Education. One of her nieces, Patricia Licuanan, shared in the bibliographical notes of Man of Earth, “she spent many years assisting Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow write and publish a series of elementary school readers” (393). A year later, she decided to become a nun. Another one of her nieces, Virginia Benitez Licuanan, quotes from her mother Paz’s journal, “We [Paz and Natividad] talked amicably of her wishing to become a nun. She [Natividad]

spoke quite sensibly and calmly.... She said she did not count at all in the outside world. She had no husband, no children. …She said she wanted to count somehow. She wanted to put her energies into something that would stay after she was dead. Not that she craved remembrance for herself, even her name would have to be changed” (85).

The two sisters were close despite their different religious views (V. Licuanan 85). Compared to Paz, who was worldly and had a liberated view of religion, Natividad was conservative in her Catholic views. She believed in the goodness of God while her sister questioned the very existence of God (Paz leaned more towards the cosmic powers of the universe). Years after entering the convent, she died as a missionary worker in Karachi, Pakistan.


CRITICAL ESSAYS 24

Natividad Marquez is considered as one of the writers during the period of imitation even though she had a very brief literary career; writing only a handful of poems. Using the pseudonym Ana Maria Chavez, she contributed “romantic little verses that gave her reputation as a poet” in her sister Paz’s magazine, Woman’s Journal, established in 1919 (Licuanan 65). The magazine only lasted for four or five years, and along with its dissolution was the conclusion of Natividad’s literary career. Today there are only five collected poems of Natividad—“The Sampaguita”, “The Sea”, “Requiem”, “The Angelus”, and “The Stranger at the Gate”, all of them written during 1924. Because of this fact, knowledge about her craft is limited. However, as already established in this paper, she is part of the period of imitation. Like her contemporaries, her style of writing is faithful to Western poetry. Most of her poems are measured and equipped with a particular rhyme scheme. This makes her poems lyrical and graceful like that of Romantic poetry. Also, it is often assumed that her poems are about nature and love, but that is not always the case. “The Angelus”, for example, is one of her more religious poems. This can be seen in the first stanza of the poem, where the setting of an altar is introduced. Statues on the altar,

Darkened by coming night; Yonder a cross In fitful candlelight.

Tuneful sound of bells; The Angelus rings— Of peace, and mercy, prayer it tells.

Dies the din of the world, Stilled the fevered pace With the Angel of the Lord— “Hail Mary, full of grace!”

Why does the sea laugh, Mother, As it glints beneath the sun?

It is thinking of the joys, my child, That is wishes everyone.

The poem is composed of twelve lines divided into three quatrains. It follows an ABCB rhyme scheme, which can be seen in most of Natividad’s poems. The whole first stanza is a description of the altar. This is very much like English Romantic poetry, wherein the persona sees something, describes it, and in turn invokes an emotion or feeling. In “The Angelus”, the feeling could be peace and prayer, seen in the second and third stanza. And from high above,

Another aspect the poem has in common with Romantic poetry is the use of auditory images. In the poems of Romantic poets like Coleridge and Keats, the persona sees with both eyes and ears, and this can be seen in “The Angelus”. The words ‘tuneful sound of bells’, ‘rings’, ‘tells’ and ‘din’ apply to the reader’s sense of hearing, which adds to the overall image of the poem. Once the church bells ring and the Angelus prayer begins, people stop what they are doing and pray. As mentioned before, “The Angelus” is one of Natividad’s more religious poems. The theme of religion and spirituality is also part of the Romantic strain, though most Romantics use it along with nature. Natividad also uses this theme of spirituality and nature in her poem “The Sea”. “The Sea” is one of the more known poems of Natividad, probably second to “The Sampaguita”. This poem is composed of twelve lines divided into six couplets with a rhyme scheme of AB CB. It is often generalized as a simple poem wherein the only action is the persona asking about the sea. In the first, third and fifth couplet we see the visual image being presented by the persona in the form of questions. In the second, fourth and sixth stanza we see the answers of “Mother” to whom the questions are addressed to. But there is more than meets the eye.


CRITICAL ESSAYS

25

Like in “The Angelus”, there are also auditory images in this poem. The first of which is ‘laugh’. The picture of the sea being reflected under the light of the sun looks like an open mouth. With the waves it looks as if the open mouth is moving, thus having the laughing image. It is not as powerful as the other auditory images presented later on in the poem; but it has its importance. The word ‘laugh’ is a verb, and associating it with the sea creates a personification of nature. This is the spirituality of the poem. The sea becomes alive, and this will be seen throughout the poem. The second couplet is confusing at first glance. What is the joy that the sea wishes on everyone? We have already established that the sea is alive. But here we see the sea as life-giving. The sea does not simply wish for joys, but also gives it. Water has always been associated with life, and the sea is a body of water. It gives life to sea creatures—fishes and corals alike—and livelihood to humans. Associating water with life is also very Romantic. They see nature as the ultimate life-giver and mentor. It gives joy as well as sorrow. We have already seen the joys it gives in the first two couplets. In the third and fourth couplets, we see its sorrows. Why does the sea sob so, Mother,

As it breaks on the rocky shore?

It recalls the sorrows of the world, And weeps forevermore.

As if it were fast asleep?

It would give our tired hearts, dearest child, The comfort of the deep.

With the wondering eye, Did a tiny fairy Drop you where you lie?

Of a tropic night

This time we are presented with two auditory images with the use of the word ‘sob’ and ‘weep’. The picture being painted of the sea as the wave crashes over a rocky shore is both visual and auditory. This creates a greater impact on both the poem and the reader. The sea is beautiful, but it is also harsh. Many people have died at sea. Many wars have also been fought at sea. These are the ‘sorrows of the world’. Nature creates life and fosters it, but it can also destroy that same life. Again, this is very Romantic. The image of nature as both creator and destroyer is used in the poems of Byron and his contemporaries. On the other hand, nature is also seen as something permanent. This can be seen in the last two couplets of the poem. Why is the sea so peaceful, Mother,

In the past couplets, we see the sea moving. But in the fifth couplet we are presented with a ‘peaceful’ sea. The image of a sleeping sea strengthens its personification. The sea has times of being awake, but it also retires for sleep. This connotes the cycle of life. One lives and dies. Death is the ‘deep’ the last line refers to. What about the sea? The sea—nature—is immortal. The comfort of the sea is in its permanence. Even if we die, the sea is still there—raging waves or peaceful calm. Even after we die, it will still there to provide joys and sorrows. That is the beauty of the sea and “The Sea”. If “The Sea” derives its beauty from the personification of nature, “The Sampaguita” derives its beauty from the beauty of nature itself. The most popular of Natividad’s poems, “The Sampaguita” is one of her shorter poems, composed of only eight lines divided into two quatrains. Like the previous poems, the rhyme scheme is also ABCB. Like “The Angelus” the poem opens with a description of the image presented. Little sampaguita,

Here we are presented with a sampaguita. A sampaguita, commonly known as jasmine, is a small white flower; native to tropical regions such as Southern Asia, the Philippines included. It is a tall climbing plant, and its flowers are fragrant (“Jasmine”). It is a dainty flower, hence the last two lines of the first stanza. In the witching hour


CRITICAL ESSAYS 26

Did a careless moonbeam Leave you in its flight?

Only the hollow rustling of dead leaves Answers my call.

To sear the beauty within? I shall be the dew To awaken the parched grass; I shall be the color To make stark trees gay, The sunlight to dispel the gloom And give new life.

Open the door to me.

The witching hour is midnight, and the flower is only native to tropical regions, hence the first two lines of the second stanza. The moonbeam is the same color of the sampaguita’s petals. The last two lines may mean that the moon is being covered by the clouds, hence ‘flying away’ from the sampaguita. “The Sampaguita” is a very simple poem. But what makes it the most known of Natividad’s works is the lyrical quality of the poem, as well as the “naïve child-like grace” that can be found in the poem that has been generally associated with her works (Serrano and Ames 32). This is a misconception. It is only “The Sea” and “The Sampaguita” that are marked by this particular characteristic. The reason why readers associate her with it is that these are her more widely-read poems. However, this characteristic of “naïve child-like grace” can be considered Natividad Marquez’s contribution to Philippine Literature. On the other hand, out of all her works, there is one that must not be ignored. In fact, it should be noticed for it somewhat differs from her other poems. Unlike Natividad’s four other poems, “The Stranger at the Gate” does not fit her writing style. The poem is a free verse poem consisting of thirteen lines with no rhyme scheme. It is divided into three stanzas; the first having three lines, the second having eight, and a couplet at the last. While it is different in form, the theme of the poem is much like the others—love and spirituality. I knock at the gate of your heart; Here we are presented with a Romantic image—using nature to describe the state of the persona, or in this case, who the persona is talking to. ‘The hollow rustling of dead leaves’ means sterility, a barren heart. It may also mean a kind of spiritual death, which we be strengthened in the second stanza. What if a blight has passed

At first glance, this can simply be seen as the persona giving life to who it is talking to. However, taking into consideration the words used, we can see the possible reference to spirituality. Blight is any cause of impairment, destruction, or ruin; it ‘sears the beauty within’—in short, sin, or spiritual death. ‘Dew’ and ‘parched grass’ refer to rejuvenation, but are particularly biblical: “But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust. For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth…. The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song” (Isaiah 26:19, 35:1-2). Hence, rejuvenation becomes a spiritual rebirth. The remaining lines support this reading, as the word sunlight is also associated with giving life. We then come to the conclusion of the poem, the couplet. I am Love. ‘Love’ here is not simply love. The use of capital letter ‘L’ transforms love into a proper noun—a person, or in this case, an entity. Since the theme of spirituality has already been established, it makes sense that Love is likened to God—or God’s love. God’s love is the ultimate expression of love. As seen in the poem, God’s love enables us to experience spiritual rejuvenation. We then see that Love, God’s love, is the ‘Stranger’ in “The Stranger at the Gate”. Thus, the poem becomes more than just a love poem; it becomes a poem of love and spirituality. Out of Natividad’s poems, “The Stranger at the Gate” is closest to the Romantic strain. Nature is often derived as a source of spiritual support (Gonzales 13). Moreover, the use of nature as life-giver, and pushing it


CRITICAL ESSAYS

27

further into something spiritual is something akin to Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Granted, the two poems are very different from one another, but it is similar in the sense that water in “Anicent Mariner” and barren leaves in “Stranger” is likened to spiritual sterility, while the albatross and love is to God. In positioning Natividad Marquez in the tradition of Philippine literature in English, “The Stranger at the Gate” may be contended with “The Sampaguita”. The fame of “The Sampaguita” lies in its simplicity and child-like grace. Manlapaz describes it as “what was perhaps the most popular poem of the era [1920s]…. it was memorized and recited by schoolchildren all over the Philippines” (34). It is different from other poems of Natividad Marquez’s contemporaries, but it is very much Romantic. However, if the basis of Natividad’s craft is in its being Romantic, “The Stranger at the Gate” would be a more suitable poem for credit. Abad observes, “the Romantic spirit had much to do with a certain sensibility and idiom… they [the generation of Fernando Maramag] were drawing from a common hoard of Romantic themes and employing a widely accepted kind of diction and imagery” (5). Natividad Marquez is part of this generation, but she must not be categorized with Angela ManalangGloria or Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido. Rather, she shares the sensibility of her sister Paz; that “English may indeed have become the language of the heart” (Manlapaz 13). Women writers such as her, Angela Manalang-Gloria and Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido may have the same background—graduating from prestigious universities and even teaching in their respective alma maters, but that is one of the few things they have in common. Because Natividad had a very brief literary career, her writing was not able to grow unlike writers such as Angela Manalang-Gloria’s did. She was not able to use English as an instrument of power or personal liberation (Manlapaz 1994, xxi; 2003, 13). Rather, as Abad pointed out, her writing was parallel to the Romantic sensibility from the models of her literary education (5). Angela Manalang-Gloria, on the other hand, was able to let her craft grow. Her poetry was imitative at first, much like Natividad’s poems were. Abad comments that “Romantic poetry had come into full flower in the poems of… Angela Manalang-Gloria and Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido” (6). “To A Lovely Woman” (1935), for example, is one of her earlier poems. It is similar to Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”. It echoes the same sentiment of the lines, “Shall I compare thee” which can be seen below. Shall I compare you to a rainbowed shower

Drawing to earth the very arc of dream, Or shall I say you are an orchid flower That fevers men beside a jungle stream?

From this we can say that Angela Manalang-Gloria also went through the phase of writing as an imitation poet. However, we remember her not for these earlier poems, but for “Revolt from Hymen” which was written in 1940. From the first couplet alone we see a change in her writing. O to be free at last, to sleep at last As infants sleep within the womb of rest! Her poetry changes into something clearly un-Romantic. This is where we see her emerging from the Romantic strain, liberating her poetry from the themes love and nature and imagery of the like. Since then, Manalang-Gloria’s poems have matured from romanticism. If Angela Manalang-Gloria used to write Romantic poems, Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido wrote romantic love poems. This is seen in the sonnets she wrote for Abelardo Subido whom she was then having a courtship with. “They Tell Me, Love” (n.d.) is one example. They tell me, Love, prose is more precise

To speak the soul of an enamored maid, And ask me why I chose to lyricize My feelings to the very subtlest shade. I could explain… but will they understand


CRITICAL ESSAYS 28

How much a secret thing Reason is? Like why I’m pliant only in your hand, And when I thirst, turn only to your kiss. Thou knowest it is thus: when I create Verses none else can dictate to thee I feel I do surrender to my mate Two loves to own: myself and Poetry… And when our spirits freely fuse in art, O how the intimacy fills my heart!

From this we see that Trinidad’s sonnet is reminiscent of Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” (1850), a collection of sonnets written to her husband Robert Browning. Both are marked by themes of romantic love. However, we also see a maturity in the craft of Tarrosa-Subido which is seen in “Muted Cry” (c. 1940). They took away the language of my blood Giving me one “more widely understood.” More widely understood! Now lips can never Never with the Soul-of-Me commune: Moments there are I strain, but futile ever, To flute my feelings through some native Tune…

Like Angela Manalang-Gloria, Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido also emerged from writing amorous love poems, maturing into what Abad described as the transformation of the Romantic idiom “into a mode of expression by which the poet gave form and substance to his own insights” (7). Philippine poetry did not simply mean an imitation of the Western Canon anymore, but rather; a platform for the Filipino voice. Given these, it is not fair that Natividad is the lesser known poet among her female contemporaries just because her poetry did not mature from imitating that of her Romantic models. It may be better to associate her with the earlier poems of these female writers, but not with the writer as a whole. Consequently, Natividad’s poetry is different from her contemporary Fernando Ma. Guerrero’s, but is closer to that of Fernando Maramag’s. While Guerrero’s poems deal more with the transition from Spanish to American colonialization (seen in his poems “Come to Me!”, “Where is my May?”, and “Freedom’s Sword”), Maramag’s is more Romantic. This can be seen in his poems “Cagayano Peasant Songs”, “To Melancholy” and “The Dreamer’s Heritage”, all written in 1912. They all deal with nature and the emotions that spring forth from it. On the other hand, in comparing Natividad Marquez’s and Fernando Maramag’s poems we also find differences. This can be seen in Maramag’s poem “Moonlight on Manila Bay” which fits Abad’s description of “the poet’s individual response to his new situation… where the Filipino poet subdued the tutelary spirits of English Romanticism to their own perception of their circumstances and history” (6). Maramag’s poem “Moonlight on Manila Bay” is shaped by Philippine history and is clearly “pro-American” (Abad 6). However, we do not see historical references in any of Natividad’s poems. What can be derived from this is that Natividad Marquez’s poems do not fit in those of her contemporaries, though she is certainly part of the period of imitation. She is an imitator of English Romanticism, as clearly seen in her poems. But she should not be casually grouped with her contemporaries, because her writing is quite different from theirs. There is something undeniably lyrical and graceful about her poetry, and her use of “child-like wonder” earned her place in Philippine literature even though little attention is paid to her (Serrano and Ames 32). This is mainly because her brief literary career did not allow for her writing style to mature. The limited information on her and her poetry should not hinder enthusiastic scholars of Philippine literature. However, it must be noted that she was the one who chose not to continue her career as a poet because she wanted to become a nun. Therefore, Philippine literature did not leave her in its flight; she was the one who left it and flew a different course: a path which led her to God.


CRITICAL ESSAYS

29

Works Cited

Marquez,Natividad. “The Angelus.” Man of Earth: An Anthology of Philippine Poetry in Verse from English, 1905 to the Mid50s. Ed. Gemino Abad and Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989. Print. Marquez,Natividad. “Requiem.” Man of Earth: An Anthology of Philippine Poetry in Verse from English, 1905 to the Mid-50s. Ed. Gemino Abad and Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989. Print. Marquez,Natividad. “The Sampaguita.” Man of Earth: An Anthology of Philippine Poetry in Verse from English, 1905 to the Mid-50s. Ed. Gemino Abad and Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989. Marquez,Natividad. “The Sea.” Philippine Literature: A Regional Approach. Comp. Delia Cariaga-Enriquez. Mandaluyong City: National Book Store c2003. Print. Marquez,Natividad. “The Stranger at the Gate.” Man of Earth: An Anthology of Philippine Poetry in Verse from English, 1905 to the Mid-50s. Ed. Gemino Abad and Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989. Print. “Jasmine.” Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008. DVD-ROM. Abad, Gemino. Our Scene So Fair: Philippine Poetry in English 1905-1955. Quezon City: University of the Philippine Press, 2008. Print. Abad, Gemino, ed. The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English from 1900 to the Present. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1998. Print. Abad, Gemino and Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz, ed. Man of Earth: An Anthology of Philippine Poetry in Verse from English, 1905 to the Mid-50s. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989. Print. Gloria, Angela Manalang. The Complete Poems of Angela Manalang Gloria. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1993. Print. Gonzales, Joseph Ignatius. Philippine Poetry in English 1928-1950: A Critical Study. Manila: Dispatch Pub., 1985. Print. Licuanan, Virginia Benitez. Paz Marquez Benitez: One Woman’s Life, Letters and Writings. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1995. Print. Manlapaz, Edna Zapanta. Filipino Women Writers in English: Their Story, 1905-2002. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003. Print. Manlapaz, Edna Zapanta. Our Literary Matriarchs 1925-1953: Angela Manalang Gloria, Paz M. Latorena, Loreto Paras Sulit, and Paz Marquez Benitez. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1996. Print. Manlapaz, Edna Zapanta. Songs of Ourselves: Writings by Filipino Women in English. Metro Manila: Anvil Publishing Inc., 1994. Print. Santiago, Lilia Quindoza. “Philippine Literature during the American Period.” National Commission for Culture and the Arts. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2011. <http://www.ncca.gov.ph/about-culture-and-arts/ articles-on-c-n-a/article. php?igm=1&i=131>. Serrano, Josephine Bass and Trinidad Maños Ames. A Survey of Filipino Literature in English, from Apprenticeship to Contemporary, with a Preview of the Early Stages of Filipino Literature. Manila: U.S.T. Print. Off., 1975. Print. St. Pauls. The New American Bible. Makati, Metro Manila: St. Pauls, 1995. Print. Subido, Trinidad Tarrosa. Private Edition: Sonnets and Other Poems. Manila: Milestone Publication, 2002. Print.


FICTION 30

WINE by Angela Theresa Mislang

drip… drip… drip…

He hears the sound, faint and in steady intervals. He opens his eyes and sees a wooden door. He knocks but there is no answer. He enters and finds himself in an abandoned studio. No furniture, no electricity, no appliances, nothing; save for the slow dripping sound he hears. He follows the sound. It takes him to the far corner of the flat. He approaches the sink where the sound originates. He moves closer and sees a bloodied knife. He reaches out to tighten the knob of the faucet but the sight of his bleeding wrists alarms him. He takes a step back, unaware of the events that led to his state. He runs back to the door and finds it locked from the outside. He starts banging the door to no avail. He sees that it’s not wood but metal. He turns around and sees a bed on the far side of the otherwise empty room. He slowly walks toward it. listens.

He lies down on clean, white sheets. He stares up at the ceiling; his thoughts blank. In the silence, he

drip… drip… drip…


FICTION

WAITING, HOPING by Priscilla Esther Relova

31

It was the eve of July 8, 1941. Mama was curled up on the mat, eyes shut tight, shivering. Her purplish fingertips held on to the threadbare afghan I placed over her frail shoulders. It offered her no comfort in this cold; it was at least 20 degrees below zero. I had lost all feeling in my toes, so I forced myself to stand up and walk. I didn’t have much room. In eight small steps, I could cross the small, damp, underground cellar mama and I had been in for the past 7 days. Had it really only been a week? I walked to the corner of the room, undid the latch, and pushed the door the slightest inch upwards, just enough for me to peek through the opening and watch as the snowflakes fell from the dark overcast sky. Pavements were glazed with slick black ice, and tree branches were coated in sleet. The cold white snow covered every surface in sight. It was one of the harshest winters yet, but the icy surroundings were the least of anybody’s worries. Loved ones were dying, injured and lost. The incessant sound of gunfire from outside drowned out my mother’s quiet sobbing. Ever since we left our house with my father and brother lying cold and dead on the floor, she has been crying almost every waking moment. I heard on our radio—the only form of outside contact we could have—that the Germans had over 3 million soldiers sent over for what was being called “Operation Barbarossa.” The Blitzkrieg had only just begun, but it felt like several months had already gone by since Russ left. I reached into the side pocket of the coat I was wearing and took out his letter. It was creased and soggy now because of all the snow. The words had been smudged together, and barely any of them were still readable. I already memorized all he had written, but I read it again. Anya, I’m sorry that I had to leave so suddenly. I don’t know where we’re going, or how long we’ll be gone. But I’ll send you news as soon as we’re settled. Try not to worry. Please? I’ll be seeing you. Russel

His writing wasn’t his usual carefully written cursive. He was obviously in a hurry.

The night before he left, we were lying on the snow-covered grass in our usual spot atop the hill, under the old olive tree. It was freezing, of course. But I didn’t mind. Actually, I was more worried about Russ.

“You alright, Russ? It’s extra chilly tonight.”

“Yes, mom. I’m fine,” he teased, rolling his eyes.

“Hey, I just don’t want you to get sick again. Remember the first time we went up here? You were down with the flu the next day. What a weakling,” I said, punching him in the arm.


FICTION 32

“That was eight years ago, An. I can handle it. Trust me.” He gave me that childish smirk of his. “We’ll see---,” then the reverberating sound of gunfire drowned out my voice. There was another skirmish nearby. We waited in silence, watching the night sky fill with smoke and debris.

“How long do you think this will last?” Russ asked when the firing finally subsided.

“I don’t think that’s what we should worry about. The attacks are sure to be devastating, but the hardest part will be trying to pick ourselves up when it’s over,” I said soberly. Russ took a long deep breath and sighed. I glanced up at him and saw how worried he looked. Russ was about a year older than me, but his thin frame and gentle features made him seem years younger. I could easily tell when something was bothering him because he frowned like a little boy who was about to cry. I hated seeing him that way, so I messed his hair up like I always did when I wanted him to lighten up. I was expecting him to roll his eyes like he usually did. But he didn’t. Instead, he slowly took my hand in his. “An?” he whispered, looking me straight in the eye, “I know this is going to sound incredibly stupid. But after all of this is over, I’m going to marry you. Trust me on that.” Naturally, I burst into laughter. But then he kissed me on the forehead. I looked up at him. There was this earnestness in his eyes that I’d never seen before. Suddenly, nothing was funny anymore.

He held my hand for the rest of that night, and didn’t say a word until he walked me to my front door.

“Good night, An. I’ll be seeing you,” he said as he wrapped his coat around me. Then he held both my hands and kissed me lightly on the forehead again. The next morning he was gone. And all I had was this letter. More than two months have passed, and still no news. How could I not worry about him? That’s all I ever did when he was around. What more now that I had no idea where he could be, if he was safe, if he even had a coat with him? Russ always forgot to bring his coat. His lanky frame couldn’t handle the cold. That’s probably why he was so sickly. I always brought my brother’s old coat for Russ when I knew I was going to see him. But now that I was wearing his, and mama had Viktor’s, what was keeping him warm? I placed his letter back in his coat pocket and laid back down next to my mother. I closed my eyes and forced myself to sleep. To dream is to escape. I’m holding his hand. He’s here, lying with me under our olive tree. He’s safe. And I’m at peace. Then, I wake up. It’s another day of waiting, hoping. I walk to the door, undo the latch, and peek outside. The snow continues to fall.


FICTION

33

CLASS CARD by Albien Joy Sison

“Tangina. Tangina. Putangina.” The girl silently mumbled, hoping that by cursing, some of the disappointment would be lifted. The girl received a warning letter from the foundation that gave her a scholarship. One more barely passing grade and she’ll be out. Her anxiety darkened the room, but she decided not tell her mother. I’ve done well during the semester anyway. There’s no point in worrying Ma. As a form of therapy, she opened her small cabinet and gazed at her books. She was proud of her collection, although most of them were second-hand copies. She was looking at the blurb of Frances Burnett’s The Secret Garden when she was interrupted by a shout from the kitchen. “Ate! Where’s mama? I’m hungry and there’s nothing for lunch yet.” Her sister always chose the right time to distract her. She shouted back, “Mama will be gone for the day, she went to Angeles with Tita Mai to sell detergent. Naku naman. You’re old enough, you must be able to cook by this time!”

“Even if I knew how to, there wouldn’t be anything to cook anyway!”

She took one lingering look at her books, promised herself one hour of luxury reading time later during the day, and then got up. She found her sister sitting on a Monobloc chair opposite the table, head buried in her hands. The girl inspected their kitchen cabinet, and then turned to her sister.

“There’s still one egg here! Kung ahas lang ‘to, tinuklaw ka na!”

“But we already had egg for breakfast, and then we had salted egg for dinner last night. I’m sick of it.”

“I’ll beat the egg and add some onions. What do you say to that?” “As if may choice ako.” ***

The girl sat in the kitchen as she watched her sister wash the dishes.

“Ate, tell me again. How was your high school life? Is it true, what they say, that it’s fun to be in high school?” “Kinda. But some of us in the public high school who were ambitious enough were scared. We weren’t sure if we could go on to college after we graduate.” “Talaga? But you’re in college now, so you’re okay. Ay, I just remembered, Ate Faith passed by this morning, she told me your school will release the class cards this week.”


FICTION

34 The girl remembered the warning letter, but she said nothing about the matter. She kept quiet for a second, lost in thought. She remembered high school life, remembered her friends, most of whom had gone to vocational schools to study cosmetology and welding. She was lucky to be born with a larger IQ, lucky to be taking BS Education, even if it was only in the provincial college. With more luck, she would graduate after four semesters. That’s all she needed to be able to get their family out of the slums and at least into a low middle-class house. “Huy, ate. I’m already done. I have something to tell you: I saw papa yesterday. I was with my friends, and Jane recognized him. He was in a pedicab with a young woman.”

“Young woman? Is it Miranda? Teka, teka. Did he see you?”

“He didn’t see me, I made sure of that. Miranda’s the woman he lived with after...” her sister looked away for a moment and then continued in an artificially casual tone, “She’s the woman who looks like an American, right? Well, it wasn’t her.” The girl slowly digested this information. Papa’s a perfect model of the abusive-drunkard father stereotype, she thought, if we were thrown a pebble every time he was seen doing something outrageous, we’d long be dead by stoning. “Okay. Look, mama already has a lot in her mind trying to make ends meet. We don’t want her thinking about him again, do we? This is the last time that we talk about this, okay?” *** It started raining hard just as the sun dipped west. The girl and her sister occupied themselves with placing mugs and bowls in places where the roof leaked. It was after a particularly loud thunder that the girl heard the knocks on the door. It was their mother. The girl saw that she was dripping wet, yet she managed to keep dry the contents of the plastic bag she carried. She offered her mother a towel as the shivering woman spoke excitedly. “I brought home dinner. Mai and I sold all the detergent quickly, so Sir Henry gave us a bonus. Look, it’s real pancit canton.” The girl smiled at the way her mother described the food. They ate their dinner slowly, savouring the rare luxury. The girl quietly listened as her sister told their mother about their conversation about high school. “She told me that she was scared about not getting to college. I didn’t know how she could think that when high school was supposed to be too fun to think of anything else.” “When I was in high school, I also went through that phase. I wasn’t as lucky as your sister, I only got to a vocational school, but it meant the world to me. I took a course in cosmetology.” “I didn’t know that, ma! Maybe I could also take that course if I don’t get a scholarship.”


FICTION To this, the girl swiftly replied, “No, you won’t. Once I finish college, I’ll support you. You’ll be able to take a four-year course then. After you graduate, you’d get a good job, and then our life would be easier.” The girl proudly smiled at her mother as she finished talking.

35

*** The girl spent a peaceful night despite the harsh rain. She woke up to a cool morning, and since it was Sunday, her mother had gone to church along with her sister. Hearing someone call outside, she went out. She found her friend, Faith, who gave her an envelope bearing her school’s seal. “They finished the class cards early, since it’s Holy Week next week. Girl, I got a low grade in one of our subjects. You remember Ma’am Brigida asking us to “donate” to the school? Well I didn’t, and look at what happened! Oh, I hope she didn’t give you a bad grade. Open it now.” The girl shakily opened the envelope and removed what was inside. As she saw the card, the world went into slow motion, suddenly the air reeked of petrichor and canal water, and her friend’s excited cries seemed too loud for her ears. She stared disbelievingly at the letter, at the number beside “Educ143: Teaching Special Children.” She felt the blood drain from her face, felt the future she envisioned slide from her grasp, untouchable as it ever was.


FICTION 36

PAPA by Gabriela Cariño

“Is it okay with you if I will have a girlfriend?” I nearly choked on the Big Mac I was eating. My face grew hot. Good thing you had the sense to ask while Rina and Theo were at the Playplace or else my Coke would have found its way to your face. I tried to answer your question as nonchalantly as you had asked it. “No.” You laughed, but your eyes regarded me somewhat with disdain. “Why not?”

Good morning. Bright sunlight fills the room, gentle like melting butter. What a mess. I really have to fix up later. Mama will arrive tonight and I’m sure she’d blow her top when she sees all these clothes and toys and books, books that you bought for me, strewn around. I know. I’ll just sweep them under the bed again. You are lying down an arm to my right. Staring into space, like you do all the time. Rina is still asleep. Theo isn’t born yet. I roll towards you and lie down on your tummy. “Morning Pa.” You break away from your reverie. “Morning love.” I laugh a little at the sounds your tummy is making, as though alien life forms are telling me something. “Ready for your lessons?” you smile. I nod, ear still pressed at your stomach. “Bat,” you say. “Mat,” I say in response. “Sat.” “Fat.” “Rat.” “Cat.” “Slat.” “Flat.” “Doormat.” “Hey, that’s not fair,” I tease. This is our morning routine, something we might have picked up from stuffing ourselves with Dr. Seuss and Stan and Jan Berenstain.

“Let’s choose another word,” I suggest. “What about ‘send’?”

“Okay. Why not?”


FICTION “I don’t want lang,” I answered hesitantly. It never crossed my mind that this would be part of the arrangement, “please don’t have a girlfriend, please, promise me.”

I thought of my mother. If you had a girlfriend then it would mean the end.

At that moment, Rina rushed to you.

“Theo’s boxing me.”

37

“She started it. She pushed me at the slide when I wasn’t ready yet,” Theo inhaled gulps of air as if getting ready to shout at her face, his eyes shot sparks, his heavy brows met at the center.

Oh, no, time for some disaster control.

“Theo, no hurting your sister. Rina, you know your brother, try not to ask for trouble.”

You watched me discipline my siblings, your children.

In the next minute, sister and brother were calmly eating French fries with us at the table. Rina sat quietly, clinging to you. Theo was on your lap. It was one of the times I wished I was a child again.

“Pa, you know, I’m in the Directors List this quarter.”

We are not going to talk about your love life in front of my sister and brother.

“I’m Best in English,” Theo chimed in, not to be outdone.

“Wow,” you exclaimed, tickling Theo with your nose. “How galing naman.”

When was the last time you called me your Number One?

Oh no. Why is everything turning into black whirling blobs?

“And I’m the third honor in the class,” Rina added.

The flower arrangements of the stage, the building where I took grade one and grade two, the quadrangle, the people on the monobloc chairs watching the awarding, the old balding pines, and the bright relentless sun is dissolving. Even you are not consistent, sliding in and out of my wavering vision.

“Pa, Pa, let’s go down na. I’m not feeling well.”

I believe you hear the urgency in my voice as you hang the gold medal around my neck.

“Why? What’s the problem?” you ask as we turn to face the hired photographer, or is it Auntie Nena holding the camera?


FICTION

38 I want to cry. Everything is black now, but I could still make out the figures like I’m looking at some old negatives. I could hardly hear my voice with the buzzing in my ears. “I just want to go home.”

I wake up. Where am I?

I see that I am lying against your lap, my hair is covering my face providing some temporary seclusion. Then it all comes back to me.

“Pa, what happened?” I straighten up, my head starts spinning again so I lie back down.

“You fainted,” you say gently. “Did you eat breakfast this morning? What time did you sleep last night?”

“I ate some breakfast. Pero onti lang, I wasn’t hungry kasi. I think I slept around ten,” I remember finishing the last chapter of The Silver Chair. “I’m sorry Pa.” I didn’t mean to be such a nuisance. “It’s okay, sweet. The important thing is that you’re fine now. Let’s go home. We could pass by Jollibee. I’ll take out some Chickenjoy. Don’t worry. You’ll always be my Number One.”

“How’s your newspaper going?” Rina, your Little Girl, asked from her perch on your arm.

“It’s losing money.”

I suddenly noticed the dark circles under your eyes, the worry lines on your forehead that never quite went away, the white strands that stood out against the black hair tied back in a ponytail. Your hair was longer than mine now. If hung loose, yours already reached up to your armpits. “Tell Connie that I won’t be able to give money now because what I earn is just enough for my pamasahe to go to work and for food. I also have to give my share for the bills or else your Auntie Nena won’t let me stay at Camp 7.”

“Okay,” Rina said.

I nodded. I already knew what my mother would say. “That’s what he always says. If he really doesn’t have money, he should find a way to make some.” Her voice would be level and cool, forbidding. I wouldn’t blame her though; she is the one who is working her ass off for this family. I don’t know how many projects she has accepted or workshops she has agreed to facilitate.

“Are you done eating?”

We stood up and walked out of McDonalds and into hustle and bustle of SM Fairview. On our way out of the mall, Theo spotted the Candy Corner stall. Not good.

“Papa, Papa, could I buy at Candy Corner?”

“Theo,” I nudged him, “Papa doesn’t have money na.”


FICTION

39 “Hay apo!” you said angrily, after snorting like a horse, a strong exhale of air. “It’s just candy. Come Theo, what do you like?”

Rina cast a sympathetic glance at me.

Jump, jump, higher and higher up. Rina is still a kid, five years old maybe. We are jumping on the spare bed in the playroom. This is the closest we could get to flying. “Sarap noh?”

Rina laughs in response.

Ba-dug.

Rina fell. Oh shit, I’m so stupid, what have I done?

I rush to her side just as she starts to cry.

All I could hear are the springs squeaking and the sound of Rina’s laughter.

“Rina, it’s okay, it’s okay,” I hold her head to my tummy. I have always believed that if you hit your head on something hard, you should immediately put it against something soft. “What happened?” calls your angry voice from the kitchen. You are washing the dishes. The next second you’re at the doorframe holding a soapy pan.

“We were jumping then she fell,” I start crying at the sight of your face, a face that I think is ready to kill.

I manage to run out of the door and into the next room. I end up at the farthest corner of the bedroom on top of the bed. There’s no where else to go.

You are in the room, the pan held up, ready to throw it and hit me.

“I’m sorry Pa, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again,” I croak.

“Next time ha,” you shout.

I crumble on the bed in fear.

Rina casts a sympathetic glance at me. She has stopped crying. Fear is in her eyes too.


FICTION 40

We walked out into the warm humid air outside the mall.

“It’s so hot here in Manila,” you were annoyed. “Let’s take a taxi?”

“Yes, yes,” Rina and Theo were excited. This was a treat.

I kept my mouth shut.

We got into a taxi.

“Will you go straight to the bus station after you drop us off at the house?” I asked you.

“Yes, but I’ll go down with you then take a bus to Cubao.”

The ride home was quiet broken only by the occasional “Theo, pahingi.” of Rina.

We got out and walked to the house. Mama was conveniently doing something in the kitchen.

“Good evening po,” you said, touching your forehead to the back of Lola’s hand. “Hinatid ko lang po yung mga bata.”

“Ah, Ogot, kamusta ka na? Send my regards to Jojo.”

“Bye Pa. I love you.” Each of us kissed you at the cheek. You mumbled “Uhh huh.”

You walked out of the gate.

“Take care of your sister and brother, okay?”

“Yes, Papa. Safe trip. I love you very very talaga.”

Then you walked away.


FICTION

OLD SONGS ON REWIND by Franz Edric Bangalan

41

Pressure, pushing down on me Pressing down on you no man ask for; Under pressure - that burns a building down Splits a family in two Puts people on streets… -Queen, “Under Pressure” Where do we go now? -Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

Screams emanated from within the house. Objects flew out with strong velocity, chasing the retreating figure of my father as he entered the car. As the screams became more or less coherent words, he replied with a few choice ones of his own as the car sped away from the screams. Once we got on the main road, he handed me a CD – 10 years after it was relevant and 20 years since the diskette was introduced. It was dirty with age, weathered by time and misuse. I inserted it into the car’s player, and soon, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” (it was printed on the cover of the case) began to play as we passed by some students in uniform. We listened in silence. After a while the car picked up speed, weaving through a group of cars and overtaking everyone in sight. My father stared at the road, saying nothing, until he slammed the brakes just before we hit a car in front of us who had slowed down for no particular reason. After my father had gotten past that minor roadblock (after dispensing of a few choice words) he moved for his cell phone as the car picked up speed again. After dialling five digits, he stopped, murmured something and turned his attention to the road again, where a traffic jam had started. He said something, slowed down, and screamed in anger. He frowned as “Highway Star” played. My father’s face remained dark as the cars in front slowly moved, and soon he was tapping the edge of the steering wheel with his fingers until it formed a beat independent of the song. I sat and listened to the surroundings, which consisted of the engine, the song, and my father’s own tempo. As the tracks changed inching towards the 11th song, the cars in front began to move faster. We both sighed as the car regained speed. The songs passed in rapid succession – songs of either love lost or love gained, or something else entirely, I couldn’t tell. All I could remember was Queen’s “Under Pressure” and the singer repeating the words love over and over and over and over and over. By the middle or near the end of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, just as Axl was about to ask where they should go now, we heard static – at first faint, but soon became louder. Just after Axl asked his question, a sound like chalkboards and cats assaulted our ears. Axl’s voice, distorted now, repeated the question, but before he could say go we heard static again. Axl attempted to finish the line one last time, but one last burst of static prevented him. It sounded like someone struggling to get out the words:

“Where do we go no- where do we g- w-w-w-here d-d-d- we go…” We listened to his attempts, futile as they may have seemed, until my father ordered me to stop the player.


FICTION

42 For a few minutes we heard nothing but the hum of the engine. Father then took his phone and dialled. I could barely understand his words – he talked too fast and was too excited. I could hear the voice on the on his phone’s, that of a woman’s, one I ought to know and yet in this space my mind could not recollect. His voice would rise up as his temper did, and it would go down as he calmed down. After a while he began whispering, and I imagined there were tears flowing from his eyes. He paused for a moment, sighed, and whispered something. Then he put down his phone. He said nothing to me, and I sat there in silence as he drove on – when he broke his meditation, all he did was give an order.

“Play the tape,” he said, and the entire thing begins again.


FICTION

SCENE OF THE AFTERMATH by Jizzer Lawrence Co

43

I lay here silently, looking at the bare image in front of me. Inanimate, bold, heart stopping. I tried looking away, I swear I did. But its divine nakedness pleased my eyes. Its strong scent covered the room and engulfed me. I know I shouldn’t be, but the cold shoulder that reflected the virgin light coming from the window blinded me -- and I kept staring. I tried moving, I swear I did. But the sweat of our arms that dried in between prevented me, stopped me. The broadness of his back, like a wall, spanned from the bed to the ceiling – so high I didn’t even think of breaching it. But the wall as I see it, is not limiting, rather, I feel safe, secured, and comfortable. I tried looking around, I swear I did. But all I can see is a figure of a lover, whose body is as big as the proudest mountain, but as calm and still as an undisturbed body of water. Lake, yes, a lake. A body so serene and quiet, and tells me that as it deepens, the more quiet it becomes. I pushed him, first gently, and then violently. I rolled him, and I thought our eyes met. Did I saw him blink? Or was it just my imagination? I tried closing our gap, I swear I did. Then I whispered, ‘’Thank you for last night’’, and breathed out as if giving him a breath of life. For last night was more than a memory that still lingers and plays inside my head. It was a night of joy, love, passion. It was the night I longed for, the culmination – from the first beats that played in my bosom, to the sacred unity of our warm, wanting bodies. The light from the window is still blinding, but not at any extent more blinding that it already was moments ago. Or was it really just moments ago? Time doesn’t really seem to run in this world of ours. Mustering all my courage, I now kissed his lips. Oh how cold they were. There was not even a single trace left of the heat that once burned my lips, the heat that kept me burning from day one. Was it because of what I did? Probably not. What harm could I do to this gentle figure in front of me, who did nothing but give me all the wonders the world has to offer? Nothing. I loved him. And now, I own him. I tried closing my eyes once more, I swear I did. But the tape has finished rewinding, and for the second time – or is it really just the second time? – the tape played from the beginning: The dinner beside my window, facing the full grace of the moon, that started our evening. The mellow yet playful music in the background that blocked all the invading noise. Nothing moved, except us. Then suddenly, his invitation. He gestured towards the bed, holding me by the hand. There we sat, chatted and finally laid. He slowly undressed me, revealing my bare, cold skin exposed to the heat that raged inside my little room. And we were still. He looked me in the eye, gave me a stare enough to melt my defenses, and the sacred ritual commenced. My skin against his, and we began to sweat – our body’s response to the rising temperature, the rising desire to own each other’s body.He kissed me in the lips, in the neck, and down to my bosom – all while tracing his hands on the curves of my back. Then he dug into me – deeper and deeper as I pulled his hair. We moved gently, and then violently. My long dark hair splashing in all directions, trying to cover the room with its wild elegance. I kissed him again, and he responded – nibbling up and down, a pause, and then a sudden bite. Bliss.

We finished the ritual with a soft kiss, and he closed his eyes.

I was so happy, but not yet contented. Tonight, I know he’s mine – but what about tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow? Fear gushed inside my mind, and I tried to smile, I swear I did.

He faced the wall while he slept, his back in front of me. With all my remaining strength, I hugged him. I


FICTION

44 wrapped my arms around his waist, his chest, his neck. I slowly twisted them – first gently, then violently. I thought I saw him twitch, or was it just my imagination? I don’t want to let go, in fact, I will never let go. I smelled his hair, now directly in front of me as I twisted his neck tighter. A big gulp of air, a little struggling, and then silence. So calming was the silence that I felt my eyes closing, mesmerized by the lullaby of the wind trying to get in from the small crack of my window. I was so happy. I loved him, and now, I own him. The tape stopped, and as I was looking at him – cold, silent, inanimate – I remembered the night full of heat, love, and passion. I tried looking around, I swear I did. But all I can see is a figure of a lover, whose body is as big as the proudest mountain, but as calm and still as an undisturbed body of water. Lake, yes, a lake. A body so serene and quiet, and tells me that as it deepens, the more quiet it becomes. I tried not to laugh, I swear I did. So I inched closer, gave him another soft kiss as if ending another ritual so sacred it deserved to be worshipped. I hugged him and whispered, ‘’Thank you for last night’’.

Then I smiled.


FICTION

TIME by Karenina Isabel Lampa

Time stopped.

Or it seemed to her at least.

45

All it took was one letter. He’s not coming back…She stood staring at the piece of paper in her hand. She expected it would hurt more than this. Where were the tears? The pain? But nothing.

Time just…stopped.

She threw away the piece of paper.

The morning after, it was as if nothing happened. When she entered the office, the chattering stopped and everyone’s eyes were on her. She felt like laughing. Typical. Instead, she flashed them a smile that told them nothing was wrong, and she walked to her desk. She took her seat, turned her laptop on, and adjusted the calendar on her desk. Just another day at work.

The first night, she had take-out for dinner. A rice meal from the canteen near the office. She placed it on her small table and removed her shoes, before grabbing the remote control cushioned between the pillows of her bed. She flicked through the channels and settled on “I drew a picture of my daddy! He’s my superhero because he always stays beside me until I fall asleep so the bedbugs don’t get me!” She showed her drawing proudly in front of the other second-graders.

“Can you tell us more about your father, dear?” The teacher encouraged her.

“He loves my mommy very much! He is a-

-they were showing a live footage of a reporter interviewing rallyists outside a school. She wondered who they were up against this time. She took in a couple more minutes of the interview before realizing that it was nothing new, and she turned the television off. Nothing good was on, anyway. Her breaded chicken and rice was waiting for her.

“How are you?”

She frowned and looked up from the news article she was just finishing up. Lydia was examining her as if trying to decipher every emotion behind her facial expressions. Assuring her that she was fine, she shrugged and pleaded for some time alone to finish her report. After all, it was due in an hour. There was a momentary pause between the two of them, before her friend nodded and left the room.


FICTION 46 all.

She scanned her article to see where she had stopped, and sighed. It was as if she had not progressed at

The second night, she forgot to stop for something to eat.She was holding a brown paper bag-

“It’s not my fault that my dreams changed!” She shot back at her mother who had entered her room. She knew she was being rude, but she refused to be bothered. She grabbed her books and stuffed them in her bag. Her mother sat down on the bed and looked at her. It was one of those looks she used to get as a child, when she would break something she did not really mean to. Like a glass, or a plate. She had been a clumsy child. “You know it’s not what you want.” Her mother said. She barely heard it, but living with her for sixteen years taught her how to pick up her mother’s voice even from a distance.

Clasping her bag shut, she took a few steps towards the door. “I’m going to class.”

“If you’re doing this to break his heart-

Her mother never finished the sentence. She sighed and stood up from the bed. “Come home for dinner. I’ll cook -pansit. She placed it on her small table and removed her shoes, before grabbing the remote control cushioned between the pillows of her bed. She flicked through the channels and settled on the evening news.

Time stopped for a moment.

Her eyes locked on the reporter babbling about the opening game for this year’s basketball tournament. A pause, before she turned the television off. Nothing good was on, anyway. She silently wished the pansithad not gone bad yet.

‘Around 2,000 have gathered for the opening news-‘

Her phone vibrated once more, and she closed her eyes in irritation. Taking a deep breath, she glanced at the screen of her phone. Mom. Resisting the urge to hit the ‘decline’ button, she watched as the screen of her phone continued to flash. A few seconds later, the vibrating and the flashing stopped. She took another glance at her phone. 22 missed calls. She ran a hand through her hair before turning back to her article. ‘Around 2,000 have gathered for the opening news-‘

The third night, she felt as if she could barely walk to her bed. It had been a tiring day. She removed her shoes, before grabbing the remote control cushioned between the pillows of her bed. She flicked through the channels and settled on the evening news…


FICTION

47 “How about a ballerina? They look pretty don’t they?” He asked her as he held a book with pictures, pointing out a girl wearing a pink tutu skirt. She wrinkled her nose and turned the page. The next one showed a picture of a man wearing a white doctor’s robe with a stethoscope around his neck.

She tilted her head as she looked at it. “A doctor!”

“Very good!” He ruffled her hair. “They heal people, and they get to put on a lot of band-aids. If you want, you can put your favorite colored ones.” But she shook her head and yawned. “No!” He looked at the clock and realized that it was nearly 9 o’clock. It was time for her to sleep. He put down the book and she immediately went under the covers, rubbing her eyes as she was settled. “If you don’t want to be any of those, what do you want to be then?” He asked as he tucked her in and kissed her on the cheek. She, in turn, kissed him on the cheek too before she turned away from him, nuzzling her favorite teddy bear.

“I want to be like you daddy…”

…she stared at the woman who was reporting live from Edsa. Was it a car accident or something? She turned the television off. Nothing good was on, anyway. She went to her refrigerator to inspect its content. There were still some leftover from previous meals.

“What’s going on?!”

At Lydia’s voice, she looked up from the mess that was her desk and closed her eyes in frustration.

it!”

“I can’t find that transcript of the interview with that Vice President! I was supposed to write an article on

She opened a drawer and began throwing out its contents hurriedly, her eyes starting to become red around the sides. She felt someone tap her shoulder and she turned around to face her friend. She was holding out the folder she was looking for. “It was just there, on your desk. Are you all-”

She reached for the folder and turned her back on Lydia, waving her away. “I’m fine… I am…”

The fourth night, she came home late. She removed her shoes, before grabbing the remote control cushioned between the pillows of her bed. She flicked through the channels before she realized that the evening news had finished.

Time stopped for a moment.


FICTION 48

A telenovela had just started airing. She turned the television off. Nothing good was on, anyway.

She felt her stomach grumble in protest, but it felt like her eyes would close any moment now.

She climbed into her bed and fell asleep within a few minutes.

She was facing her laptop, but she could not even phrase a sentence. She glanced at the calendar beside her and shifted in her seat. Five days. She shook her head and glanced at the other side for her phone. The screen was blank; it showed no unread messages or missed calls. Turning back to her laptop, she pressed ‘T’ then ‘H’ then ‘E’. The… The what? What was she typing about, again? She rubbed her temples and silently wished for some painkillers. She felt a headache coming on. The fifth night, she came home. Five days… And without removing her shoes or grabbing the remote control, she started towards the kitchen. And then it was there, just as she left it five days ago. Holding out her hand She watched as they worked on him. Dressed in her toga, she was now tall enough to see through the small circular glass of the hospital door. She could not enter, because her mother held her back. She looked away from the door and watched her mother. She could see that her eyes were become watery. She held her hand tightly. Her mom looked at her. “Mommy, don’t cry. Daddy will be fine. He’d never leave us.” She smiled at her mother. Her mother bit her lip before she slipped her hand into her pocket and took out a piece of paper.

Taking it, she unfolded it and saw her father’s handwriting:

I’m sorry I couldn’t make it today. I promise to treat you to that expensive restaurant you wanted as soon as I get out. I love you.

-the piece of paper on top of the pile that had collected in her trashcan and she unfolded it.

She read it once more.

This time.

She cried.

“Born on the 23rd of…. He was a man who believed firmly in God and… loved by more than the people surrounding….”


FICTION

49 Something caught at her throat and she took a deep breath, before she scanned the words in front of her.

“…he was bor- He loved his job as a news- He-….”

She bit her lip as she forced herself to finish even one sentence. Nothing seemed to make sense. Not even herself. And as she lifted her eyes from her speech, she saw her mother sitting in the front row, eyes red and puffy. She did not bother to wear a veil; it seemed so passé.

“Born on…”

She saw her mother’s eyes.

“…the 23rd of…”

Time stopped.

“A couple of years…”

She looked at her mother, waiting for the part where she would tell her she was just joking. She put down her yearbook that she was perusing through and waited.

A minute.

Two minutes.

“Don’t lie to me mom. I’m not a kid anymore.”


FICTION 50

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF LIFE by Jomari Evan Guiao

Nothing was exciting me anymore. Each day just seemed to drag by. I was going with the flow. School, friends then home. This was what I did every single boring day. It was a monotonous life. I didn’t know if I will ever find something to get me through this.

But I did.

He and his friends were there to keep me company. But I didn’t reciprocate. I wanted to, you know. What I wouldn’t do to still keep my sanity. But I can’t. I just can’t. ***** It happened on a typical school day. Nothing worthwhile was occurring as usual. Just sitting at the middle of the classroom and having the drones of the teacher as the background sounds. I don’t need to review this information; I’ve memorized all these algebraic formulae like the back of my hand. My eyes started to search for something to ignite some interest out of me. Scanning the room back and forth, I zoned into some of my classmates. Near the windows was Parker. My boyfriend. Sensing that I was looking at his direction, he tore his gaze from the court outside and looked directly at me with those emerald eyes of his. He gestured at his left eye and pointed at me. God, he’s doing it again. You see, he dislikes the way my fringe covers my arched eyebrows and my dark hazel eyes. According to him, they give my soft features a fierce edge. Many have remarked about my “angelic face” and guys seem to be attracted to this. He told me that he was lucky because a million guys would kill to be my boyfriend. Well, I don’t really care.

After he winked at me, I just gave him a curt nod and a small smile and returned to my soul-searching.

Behind the podium sat Fay. Having known her since forever, we have been friends for the longest time now. We would fight about the most trivial of things and give the silent treatment to each other for a day. If we got into a big misunderstanding, like when she saw me and Jed Carruthers in a compromising position, no communication would happen between us for a month. Jed was her biggest crush since tenth grade and she had to make a fuss about the scene that she had witnessed. It was as if Jed was hers. Oh, I just can’t fathom what would happen if they were actually together and she saw us in that position. But I doubt that anything would happen between them. I haven’t seen that stud anywhere with a girl. I swear, that boy is playing on the same team as Fay and me. The good thing was that all would turn out well in the end, as we make up and give the other person a chance to explain and smooth things out. Jesus, that girl can really drive me insane sometimes.

Rolling my eyes, I shifted my attention to the person sitting in front of me.

The class weirdo. We were already halfway through the school year but I don’t think if we’ve ever had a conversation before.

He raised his left hand.

Huh? That’s new. The freak was going to recite.


FICTION

51 The teacher nodded his head and the boy stood up quickly. He rushed out of the room leaving me laughing to myself. Stupid me. As if Alex was actually going to recite. As I was saying, nobody likes him. That is, if Gabriel Sanders was a nobody; he was always with him. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were fuck buddies. Whenever they were together, they would always whisper something to each other, talking dirty maybe, and then suddenly burst out laughing. For God’s sake, it was like they were wasted or something! In the end, they would get in trouble for their disruptive behavior. I don’t know how much of what my classmates told me were true, like they had some sort of psychological disorder, but eh, I don’t really care. I suddenly gasped. Alex was back on his chair and he quickly lowered the sleeves of his hoodie but I already saw it. On his right arm was a dark pink mark that stood out from his pale skin. He looked at me inquisitively and a shiver went up my spine. He studied me curiously with his bloodshot eyes and said, “Something I can help you with, Warren?” He was staring at me with those baby blue eyes of his. I suddenly felt uncomfortable because of this and the way he said my last name. I put my gaze towards the blackboard for the rest of the hour. He also shifted his attention there, crossed his arms on his chest and looked satisfied with himself. That smug grin on his face made me uneasy throughout the morning. Lunch came after a flurry of lectures. I was making my way to my locker when Parker suddenly appeared to my side and offered to take my stuff. I gave him my books and told him that I’d just meet him at our usual lunch table in the cafeteria because I needed to use the bathroom badly. He nodded, kissed me on the cheek and said, “See you later, Steph!” I rolled my eyes at him. It’s not as if my first name was too long. Stefani already sounds fine. Steph was just horrid. I rushed to the nearest restroom at the secluded area of the twelfth grade wing. I tried to push the door open but it was locked. A minute later, the person inside still would not come out. I got pissed and used my shoulder to force the door open. The lock was destroyed and the door finally gave out. I don’t know if I should be surprised that I saw two guys in their undershirts, holding each other’s arms while their polo shirts were crumpled on the floor. And that the scene made more sense because they were Alex and Gabriel. I placed my hands on my hips and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt your make-out session but I need to use the restroom badly.”

Gabriel glared at me while Alex said, “This is the boys’ restroom.”

“Nevertheless.” I retorted, “And it’s not as if you’re boys exactly.”

They didn’t seem to hear me as they picked up their clothes and tried to put themselves together. Gabriel slid out the door cursing and before following his friend out, Alex muttered, “Enjoy.”

I closed the door and mumbled, “Ugh.”

I did my business and flushed the toilet feeling relieved. After washing my hands and examining myself in the mirror, I went outside. I almost bumped into someone. I looked up and saw that it was Alex. I was surprised that he was still here.


FICTION 52

Was he waiting for me?

He answered my question by grabbing my wrist and pulling me closer. He whispered in my ear, “You won’t tell anyone, will you?” To avoid feeling disheveled again, I looked down at his hands so pale almost like a ghost’s. I said, “What about?”

When he didn’t say anything, I lifted my gaze and saw his eyes narrowed at me.

After a moment’s hesitation, he finally said, “Well, I’m pretty sure you saw some of my marks a while ago and that scene you just witnessed confirmed your suspicions.”

I laughed at him. “Oh, come on, it’s just normal for boys like you to do those stuff.”

He let go of my wrist. “What? Why—What did you think we were trying to do in there?”

“Well, umm… Each other!”

He looked at me in disbelief and after concluding that I wasn’t messing with him, his face turned into pure disgust. “What the—I—“

He grabbed my shoulder and looked at me closely. “You were kidding, right?”

Trying to hide my unease, I said, “No.” And before he could go on to another staring frenzy, I added, “That’s what I think about what’s going on between you and Gabriel. So, is it true?” He lookedlike he was trying his best not to punch something. “That is quite possibly the sickest thing I’ve ever heard.” I rolled my eyes. I’ve had enough of this. Lunch was going to end soon. “I have to go now. And you should get that bite checked in the infirmary. It looks nasty,” I told him. He became dead-serious and grabbed my shoulder. He repeated his question, “You won’t tell anyone, will you?” “It’s hard to keep a secret if you yourself don’t know the secret, don’t you know? Or was that fact a secret to you too?” His grip on my shoulder quivered for a bit. He removed his left hand and reached for something inside his satchel. He pulled out an injection half-empty of a clear liquid.

My eyes widened in shock. Morphine.

I snatched the object from him and started to panic and shout, “You—“

He clamped his hand inside my mouth in time before I was able to blurt out a string of swear words. “Now, now, princess. I trusted you and let you in on our dirty little secret. You don’t want to destroy that by


FICTION

53

alerting the attention of the janitors, do you?”

“Where did you get this?” I hissed, trying to remove his hand from my mouth. “And what do you mean by ‘our’?” I quickly replaced his hand on my mouth with a hand of my own and gasped in horror. “Oh, my God! You and Gabriel…” I looked at the injection on my hand. I didn’t notice that the small needle had pierced my ring finger as I clutched at it tightly.

I noticed Alex watching me intently at my side. He asked nonchalantly, “You want?”

I laughed nervously and wondered for a second if he was joking. He was watching me carefully. I couldn’t decipher what was in his eyes at that very moment but I knew that humor was definitely not a part of it. ***** The day ended and I was finally able to go home. As expected, I was alone, as my parents were still at work. I rushed into my room,taking two steps at a time, a soft rattling coming from my breast pocket. Yes, I accepted Alex’ offer. Whatever. I’ve never felt this much excitement for some time now. I pulled out the injection and set it carefully at the middle. I didn’t even bother changing my clothes as I sat at my study table.I stared at the transparent liquid oscillating until it stopped. The thin needle was piquing my interest so much. I pondered on how the travel of a liquid to the tip of it can change the life of a person greatly. I lightly tapped the syringe a few times and pressed the plunger. A jet of liquid squirted from the needle. Some sprayed on my exposed left arm. I examined the clear liquid against my light brown skin. It was shaped like an emaciated seahorse. I wondered what it would feel like under my skin. They’re always shown in the movies. It’s a form of escape by the troubled protagonists. A feeling of ecstasy would travel to their whole bodies, clearly evident on their faces as they got stoned. I was getting stoked from all these images that I just wanted to get this over with; this whole thing would be an entirely new experience for me.

An entirely new experience that can ruin your life.

My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a little voice at the back of my head. That’s true. The characters in the movies would also screw up their lives in time once they heavily depended on the substance. The same would also happen to me if I take this path. This would be a point of no return for me.

I wiped the spot furiously where the liquid hit me and decided to resume this later.

I did my homework in a breeze and dozed off for a little while. After an hour or so, I heard some scuffling from downstairs and realized that my parents were now home. Half an hour later, I heard my mother telling meit was time for dinner.It was a typical one, with the three of us sharing the events of our days to one another.

Strangely though, I was experiencing terrible itching on my left arm and right hand throughout dinner. I


FICTION

54 tried so hard not to scratch under the table. However, it came to the point where I dropped my fork in shock when I examined my arm on my lap and saw a hideous red mark on it. I discreetly wiped my left middle finger across my plate to get it covered in ketchup and made an excuse of accidentally cutting myself with the knife. I headed to our medicine cabinet and scanned through different leaflets until I found what I was looking for: the composition of each drug.

Shit. I knew it. The little shit has codeine.

I took a deep breath. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s not like I injected myself with it, right?

“Did you find the bandages, sweetie?”

I jumped in surprise as my mother appeared by my side, looking at me with concern.

“Of course. I’ll just go to my room and wipe the blood off the wound first.” I returned the papers back to their original places, not making a good work of it. My mother stared in confusion. “There’s some tissue here you can use. Why don’t you just do it here so I can also inspect it afterwards?” She started to reach for the cabinet handle so I blurted out, “You don’t have to do that, Mom! And there’s also tissue upstairs, you know.” I flashed her a reassuring smile. After studying me for a moment, she responded with “Keep up the good work in school, alright, honey?”

She headed to the living room while I let out a sigh. I ran to my room and closed the door silently.

The grotesque shape was still there on my left arm but it wasn’t itchy anymore. Probably because of the anxiety from the fiasco that had just happened.

I should have expected this. Morphine was a painkiller after all.

So was Solpadeine. *****

You see, when I had my first period, I was in extreme pain. The contractions in particular were unbearable. It was like I was going to pass out any second now. I tried to relax myself but the muscles in my thighs were extremely taut. After the last drop, I finally exhaled, not realizing that I was holding my breath for a while now. The next day, I asked my mother if that was what menstruation really felt like. She said that maybe because I had it while I was still too young. But I insisted that she do something about it because I was starting to dread my next cycle. She relented in the end, when I started to cry and throw a tantrum at her. She took me to a pharmacist and she prescribed an analgesic capsule called Solpadeine. “For headaches and ‘period pains’,” she said.


FICTION

55 When I felt the blood flowing the next month, I prepared myself by swallowing two of the little pills. I lay down on my bed, waiting for them to take effect. After some time, the contractions were not painful anymore but they were still uncomfortable. I looked at the clock. It was just a little after five o’clock. Maybe I can lie here for a bit, I thought. still.”

I woke up from an uneasy sleep. I tried to reach for my nightstand but a man next to me said, “Please lie

I lifted my head and pain shot sharply to it from my body. My clothes were damp in sweat and realized that I wasn’t in my own bed. I was lying on a stretcher and urgent whispers were all around me.

A hospital?

The last thing I remember was vomiting on the auburn-haired girl to my right and passing out.

I stayed in the hospital room for about a week, where different tubes were inserted inside me and different tablets were given for me to swallow. That was the time that doctors told me I had a severe allergy to the chemical codeine. The smallest amount can cause the biggest of problems. They told me they didn’t know up to what extent my allergy covers but warned me not to test things out. Well, apparently, I’m externally and ultimately allergic to the damn thing because even its diluted liquid form can cause irritations to my skin. I don’t remember much but since then, I have not encountered problems with my menstrual cycles anymore. They must have fixed that too. Thank God I didn’t have to endure it for the rest of my adolescence. Anyway, Solpadeine would also be a prescription-only medicine two years later when the cases of codeine addiction were increasing dramatically.

Back to reality, here I am now in my room staring at the indefinite shape. I sighed and went to bed. *****

The first thing I did when I woke up was unlocking the drawer. I placed the syringe carefully inside a trash bag, making sure that nothing spills on the floor. I ran downstairs and headed to the front yard. I stayed there for an hour or two, tending the garden while still keeping an eye on the black bag. I straightened immediately when the garbage truck arrived. They finally grabbed the shit from me. I even handed a $5 tip to each of the personnel.

I went to my room and sat on my bed, feeling relieved of a great burden.

“Good riddance!” I shouted to no one in particular.

The feeling of hopelessness was removed from my chest in an instant. I let out a big sigh. I can’t even remember how I got to sleep without eating dinner.


FICTION

56 The next school day was uneventful, even for someone like me. It was the start of a new term so schedules and seating arrangements would be changed. The moderator said that we would be seated according to our family names. A big groan erupted from the class. The order was set vertically and our moderator called us one by one. When she finished assigning our seats, I looked around me.

Fucking A. This is just fucking great.

To my left was Gabriel and in front of him was Fay. She was mouthing something to me that I can’t seem to understand. Probably somewhere along the lines of “I won’t be able to sleep here!” Behind Gabriel sat Parker. He nodded at me as a smile crept up his face. He reached for the hair covering my eyes and tugged it at the back of my ear. I looked behind me and saw Alex. He gave me a smile while I gave him a small wave. To my right was the ivory wall that enclosed this room. Ugh. The perks of having a last name starting with a letter near the end of the alphabet.

However, the most curious thing about my place was the empty seat in front of me.

“Uhm, excuse me, Ma’am? Isn’t that Latin guy, Proficio, I think his name was, supposed to be in this chair?” I politely asked. Our motherly moderator turned to me and responded, “Oh, yes, yes. But he migrated to Peru just this past weekend because his mother got sick. Let’s just leave this chair empty, shall we?”

Okay. This just got fucking better. I’m sitting with Casper for the whole term.

I turned towards the moderator again and exclaimed, “I hope we’ll all be friendly this term!”

Everyone in the room stared at me like I’m mental.

Fay’s mouth was shaped like a perfect “O”. “What happened to you, girl? It’s like you’re on drugs!”

I laughed. “Ha! Don’t be silly, Fay.”


FICTION

CIRCLES by John Colin Yokingco

57

It seemed time had slowed down for him. He was lying under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill. He couldn’t quite remember why he was here. He couldn’t quite remember anything for that matter. All he knew was that he was free to choose. And he chose this, to be lying under his favorite tree on top of his favorite hill. He sat up from under his favorite tree and saw a beautiful girl around his age running up his favorite hill. He wasn’t sure, but she looked familiar. Clutched in her left hand was a leather-bound book. She sat down next to him and took his hand and handed him the book. She smiled at him, which made his heart race in a way that he knew, but hadn’t felt in a long time. He couldn’t help it, but smile back. He wasn’t sure of what he was feeling. All he knew was that he was free to choose. And he chose this, to be sitting under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill, holding hands with this beautiful girl, while reading his book. Time slowed down for him. He was sitting under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill. He looked up from the chapter he was reading and saw that next to his favorite hill was a beautiful home. A home with a red tiled roof and a beautiful white paint job. A home with a large blue door and a white washed fence around a beautiful garden. A beautiful home with an open window looking out towards his favorite hill. Through the window he could see the most beautiful young woman. She looked through the window and seemed to smile at him. His heart raced in that familiar, yet strange way. He smiled back, finding it peculiar that such a beautiful woman would look at him. He heard a cry of laughter, and saw that a lovely little girl was running up his favorite hill towards his favorite tree. He smiled at her and she smiled back, and this made his heart ache with joy and filled him with laughter. She ran towards him and took his hand and led him down the hill. Together they danced around his favorite hill laughing until their lungs gave out. They walked back up his favorite hill. They rested under his favorite tree, both of them tired but filled with happiness. He wasn’t sure why he was this happy. All he knew was that he was free to choose. And he chose this, to be under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill, lying next to this lovely little girl, in view of the beautiful home, looking through its window at the most beautiful woman. Time was slowing down for him again. He was standing under his favorite tree on top of his favorite hill. Standing next to his favorite hill was what looked like once a beautiful home. A home that had a faded red tiled roof, an old blue door, a chipping white paint job, a dilapidated white washed fence, and an unkempt garden. He looked into one of the windows and felt like he was looking for something, like something was missing in that frame. It was raining hard, and he was drenched to the soles of his very feet. A lovely teenage girl was walking up the hill towards his favorite tree. An umbrella sparing her from the rain, she walked towards him and took his hand. She sheltered him from the rain with the umbrella and led him down his favorite hill and towards the once beautiful home. It was warm inside the home. She sat him down on the kitchen table and offered him a mug of coffee. She smiled at him, and it made his heart ache. The smile made her look beautiful; hiding what seemed to be scars from an endless battle. The smile was familiar, it lit the room up, but it wasn’t the one he was looking for. He found himself searching the home, searching for something he seemed to have lost. It made his heart ache not finding what he was searching for. He looked out the window and saw that the rained had ceased. He walked out of the home, the teenage girl followed and walked by his side. He made his way up his favorite hill. He sat under his favorite tree. The girl asked why he decided to sit under the tree and he told her he was waiting for something or someone. She smiled a sad smile that broke his heart. She handed him a leather-bound book, his favorite book. And in between the pages of his favorite book was a beautiful white flower. The lovely teenage girl with the sad smile walked back to the once beautiful home, leaving him under his favorite tree on top of his favorite hill. He wasn’t quite sure what he was waiting for. All he knew was that he was free to choose. And he chose this, to sit under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill, clutching his favorite book with its beautiful white flower, waiting for something that will make him feel that way again.


FICTION

58 Time stopped. He was sitting under a leafless tree, on top of a bare hill. Next to the bare hill was an old house. A house with a collapsed roof, a bare façade, an empty doorway, and what once looked like a fence around what seemed to be a small wilderness. He looked through a window and felt his heart cry out in anger, sadness, and frustration. He was waiting for something, but it never came back, forever lost. He saw that in his left hand he was clutching an old leather bound book, his favorite book. The book reminded him of a beautiful woman, of warm hands, of a beautiful smile, of images of a burning plane, and of hopelessness and endless sadness. In between the pages of the book was a withered flower. The flower reminded him of a lovely little girl, of dances around hills, of laughing until you cried, of warm coffee, and of a life that was far too short for its worth. He felt warm tears streaming down his eyes. He didn’t know why he was crying. All he knew was that he was free to choose. And he chose this, to sit under a dying tree, on top of a bare hill, in view of a house that made his heart ache, clutching an old leather-bound book with its withered flower, closing his eyes for what he wished was the last time, waiting for warm hands and wonderful laughter to take him. Time came alive. He was lying under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill. A shimmering light came through his closed eyes. And somewhere he could hear lovely laughter, a warm hand clutched his and he felt himself come alive. He opened his eyes and saw a beautiful woman smile at him, a smile that made his heart race. She kissed him on the cheek and whispered “I’m sorry I was late, welcome home”. She smiled once again and he smiled back. He wasn’t sure where he was. All he knew was that he was now peaceful, under his favorite tree, on top of his favorite hill, holding the warm hands of his wife, listening to the wonderful laughter of his daughter, clutching his favorite book with its beautiful white flower.


FICTION

SO THAT’S WHY IT TASTES SO GOOD! by Lea Marie Diño

59

He couldn’t wait for his family to hear the good news. Instead of joining his friends from work for the usual Friday night drinking session, he rushed straight home. One more, he thought as he stepped inside the jeep that stops at the corner near his house. One more jeep ride and I’ll be home. “Wow, you’re home early,” his wife said as he went inside their tiny home. He hurriedly kissed her on the cheek and she noticed that his husband was smiling. “And why are you smiling?”

“I got the bonus, and work resumes on the 27th, not on the 26th,” he beamed.

Then she grinned too. “Ay Diyos ko, thank You Lord. Now someone can help me clean the house,” she said, and they heartily laughed. His youngest son must have heard their laughing. Through the curtains covering the bed they shared, he greeted, “Hello Papa!” The little boy of five jogged towards him, dropped his yellow toy truck and grabbed his hand and let it touch his forehead. “Papa got a bonus and extra day of vacation,” he told him. “Wheee! Papa’s here for Christmas!” the boy yelled. Then he remembered his two other children. “Where’s Ate and Kuya? It’s already 5:30, why aren’t they home yet?” “Kuya’s in the computer shop. Research, he said. And I sent Ate out to buy kanin,” his wife replied. An idea came up in his head. “Let’s celebrate now! I’ll buy litsong manok for dinner tonight,” he said. His youngest son flashed a toothy smile. “Yehey! Chicken!” he cheered. Minutes later, he went to the nearby store that sold roast chicken and liempo. The man behind the counter wore a faded red apron. Under the apron was a thin white sando and rugged denim shorts. He didn’t wear a hairnet and gloves unlike the vendor in the other store that sold more expensive chicken. But those things didn’t matter. He believed they all tasted the same anyway, but this one’s cheaper, so why bother going there?

“What can I get you, bossing?” the vendor asked.

“One whole litsong manok, that’s all,” he replied.

“Sige boss. Just a few more minutes.” And he waited. He watched the chicken skewered in a metal rod turn round and round over the burning coals. There was a waft of the roasting chicken coming from the grill. Hay, I couldn’t wait for my family to feast on this. It will go great with rice, he thought. Then he heard a loud “Aaaahhh-choooooo!” He turned his eyes to the vendor who was rubbing his hands under his nose. “Naku pare, I hope you don’t get sick. Christmas is only days away,” he said.


FICTION

60 The vendor agreed as he reached out for a little brush, “Oo nga eh, more customers on the 24th. I won’t have anything for Noche Buena if I get sick.” He dipped the brush in the bowl of marinade and gently brushed it over the chicken. Drops of the marinade fell down on the coals and produced a delicious smoke. Another waft of the roasting chicken came to the air. The chicken then turned brown after a few moments. The vendor brushed the chicken with the marinade again. More minutes passed and at last, the glorious chicken was done. He took it out from the skewer, wrapped it in foil and placed the wrapped chicken in a white plastic bag. “165, boss,” the vendor said. He fished out a violet bill, then another red one and three shiny new gold coins from his pocket. He put the money in his hand that had many streaks of black. They’re probably from the coals. He gave him the plastic bag with the chicken. “Liempo, boss? Chicharon?” the vendor suggested. But he shook his head, smiled and strode home. His daughter was placing the plates and glasses on the table, while his older son was getting the spoons and forks from their containers when he returned home. His wife was putting the rice his daughter bought from the nearby carinderia in a bowl. His youngest son was on the floor, playing with his toy truck. “Papa, that’s the chicken, di ba? Yehey!” his youngest son cried upon seeing him holding the plastic bag. It had been years since they last had a good meal. A really good meal. It’s about time that they eat something other than scrap, he thought to himself as he grinned at them. He took out the chicken from the bag and took it out from the foil packaging. He placed the chicken on the plastic chopping board and carved it. Then he placed the cut pieces on a large plate and served it on the table. “Let’s eat,” the wife prompted. They whispered their prayers and started to fill their plates with the rice and chicken.

“Papa, how do they make the chicken taste like this? Sarap!” his daughter asked in between bites.

He told them what he saw at the store. The chicken skewered over the coals, the marinade, the smoke.

“The vendor must be a very great cook. A really careful cook, too. So that’s why it tastes so good!” she exclaimed, and they continued chomping down the delicious chicken. “Ano, should we have this litsong manok again on Noche Buena? And Media Noche?” the wife asked. “Yes!” his children replied.


FICTION

MAYBE NEXT YEAR by Angela Theresa Mislang

61

We make our way into the garden. I thank the heavens because it’s sunny; (it always is when I’m with you). I put on my Wayfarer. You look at me and I know what you’re about to say. I have sensitive eyes, I tell you every time. I start walking away. You follow; of course you do, it’s my birthday celebration and you’re here to keep me sane. I sit in a corner while you talk with a stranger. People approach me to greet me and engage in small talk. I don’t even know these people. About a third of them are seniors; and I don’t mean high school. They’re my parents’ guests so I’m obliged to just smile and look interested. I still don’t understand why they find it necessary to hold a huge party every year. I start observing people like I always do. Then, you come into view. Your conversation with the stranger ends, but not a minute passes when another begins. I wonder how you can keep calm and smile in every situation but I guess that’s just how you are. That’s how you’ve always been. I sigh and start tapping my feet, finding rhythm despite the speakers’ loud beat. I pull out my phone and play MouseTrap, my favorite game. It’s simple and it also keeps me sane. I’m frustrated by the time you’re done because I’m stuck in level 5, stage 41. I glance back to your direction and see you’re walking towards me. I remove my shades and blink to adjust to the brightness of my surroundings. And there you are in front of me. You ask me to keep them off but I slip them back on. Tell my mother not to hold my birthday parties outdoors and I just might, I tell you. You just look at me with wide eyes; ha, I know my mother scares you. It’s been this way for the past 8 years, I add, but maybe next year…


FICTION 62

TO YOU by Jazreth Gale Digao

To you who suddenly gets angry at me, You laugh at me because you say I always frown, but when you’re angry at me, you get more pissed off because you say I’m frowning. You keep saying it’s my default face, but I don’t understand why you think I keep fighting you when I just get really hurt. You always tell me mistakes I had in the past. Haven’t you forgiven me for that? Why do I keep hearing these from you? And every so often you suddenly get mad at me for something that you say I usually do and you’ve always hated. This always surprises me because you suddenly say this in the middle of a fight. Why do you wait until you’re so angry before you say anything to me? To you who I always make mistakes to, There are little favors you ask me to do that I forget to do. It’s not because I don’t respect you, will you stop thinking that? You get hurt when I don’t do these things, and you always compare what I do for you and what I do for others. I don’t like other people better; please get that out of your mind. I am trying to change, even though you keep saying I repeat my mistakes. To you who says hurtful things when you’re angry, Please remember that I can be hurt too. Maybe I don’t cry as much as the average person does, or I look tougher even if I’m being reprimanded, but don’t you know how painful your words can be to me? Sometimes I wish you’d just stop talking, and for once hear what I want to say. To you who’s one of the strongest people I know, Your determination is one of the best things about you. I admire how strong willed you are. If you want it, you work hard to get it. But somehow, it’s more admirable when you know when to stop reaching, if you know it’s not the best for you. But you know when to fight for what’s right, and you’ll never give up on your belief. If you were weak we might have been APART a long time ago, but because of your strength to hold on, you made us stay together. I know that deep inside you there are still things you cannot forget, but your forgiveness to those who wronged you is most admirable. To you who can lighten up everyone’s day, You can make people feel better just by talking to you. Your laugh is so contagious, your jokes so endearing. It’s amazing how you inspire people wherever you go. To you who I kept a secret from, Countless times I wished to the Universe to just turn back time - to before it all started. I wish I could’ve told you everything right from the start, that I did the right thing early on, and I didn’t let things get this far. I didn’t think of you, I admit. Of what you’d feel when you find out. I was being shamelessly self ish, and I broke your heart. My words are not enough to express how truly sorry I am. When I first saw you cry because of me, my first thought was that I’d rather kill myself than do that again to you. I never wanted to hurt you like that, and I would do the best I can to prevent you from feeling that way ever again. To you who I could always count on anything, You once told me that even though you don’t look like you’re listening when I talk to you, doesn’t mean that you aren’t. You’ve proved this to me many times, and I appreciate how you help me in so many


FICTION

ways. You keep making me a better person.

To you whose insight I value more than anyone, To you whose love I cannot live without, To you whose beauty I truly admire, To you who gave me life.

63


FICTION 64

LEFT IN TIME by Louise de Luna

(one) She comes and she goes.

It’s one of the constants in his life.

(two)

They met during summer, when the sun was high up in the sky and the electricity was out.

Martin was on his way towards home with a plastic of suka in his left hand another one filled with Coke bought with the change from his mother when he spotted her at the empty field beside their neighbour’s house. He felt the sweat roll down his back as he observed her under the harsh rays of the sun. She was wearing pink all over and pranced around the empty field with the most ridiculous slippers he had ever seen and he knew immediately that she was not one of them.

Outsider.

Martin frowned and squint his eyes to see her better. Light skin caught his attention and yep, she was definitely from out there. The fourteen year old scratched the back of his ear in mild irritation.

*** Diane was bored and felt stupid trying to catch dragonflies.

The young girl blew a sliver of her black hair from her line of sight in defeat. While she was here, dying of boredom her friends back in Manila were what? They were going out in amusement parks or even enrolled in summer activities. But Diane? No, Diane has to go home and enjoy the rural life, Daddy said. Diane needs to learn responsibilities, Mommy said. Ugh. “Did I get to have a say in it? No…” Diane’s voice grew mocking, “Apparently, I’m too young for deciding on what I want to do but definitely old enough to be left behind in this godforsaken place. Ugh.” The thirteen year old grabbed a rock and threw it to the landscape with the last of her strength. Parents. “Psst…” Diane ears twitched at the sound and looked around half-expecting a snake to fall from the tree she was under. Disturbed by the thought, Diane looked up the mango tree and saw nothing but rustling leaves.

Camouflage.

‘This is how I’m going die. A snake would fall down and I’ll get eaten whole. Great.’

“Psst...Oi. I’m down here.” Diane snapped her head towards the sound of the voice and saw a boy peering over her seated form. Not minding the fact that she might be being rude, Diane surveyed the boy from head to toe. From his messy bed hair down his sando with a whole on his shoulder to his basketball shorts and rubber slippers, he looked every bit like her cousin’s friends.


FICTION If he turned out to be a creep like one of them, she’d poke his eyes with the stupid stick he kept waving around and bolt. She’d probably just bolt.

65

Martin raised his eyebrow at the girl’s obvious distrust, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to try and make friends with vacationers. Martin shrugged inwardly and waved the ting-ting closer her to her face. He grinned at her scrunched up nose.

“H-hey! Hey! Stop that!” Diane swatted the offending stick from her face and grimaced when she felt something sticky stick at the back of her hand. “What the--!”

“Tch. You killed it.” Martin stated at surveyed the end of the stick where his supposed to be friendship token was trapped and sure enough, it was squished.

“I killed what?” Diane looked over the strange boy with disinterest as she continued in vainly trying to remove the sticky substance from her hand. Jeez, get out and explore, Lolo said, yeah well, she explored alright!

Deciding that it didn’t matter anymore, Martin plucked the dead insect from the stick by its wings. He disregarded the dagta on his fingers and all but shoves the insect towards her. Diane’s eyes widen and held her hands open to catch the insect when Martin dropped it. Despite being dead, Diane was more than elated to finally touch one of the elusive creatures that she’d been trying to catch all day. She looked at it up close and then to its catcher with amazement in her eyes, “That’s amazing! How’d you do that?! Will you teach me?”

Perhaps it was his childish vanity and the feeling of superiority that he gained when she uttered those words that made him agree or perhaps it was the start of an odd friendship.

“You really want to know?”

(three) They became friends, at least for the summer and true to his word Martin showed Diane everything he knew and felt proud knowing that Little Miss City Girl was amazed of the things he’d been doing since forever.

He taught her how to catch fireflies with his fool-proof method-

“Okay, so get one ting-ting from the broom and—“

“What’s that?”

“Dagta, anyways, it’s from the langka—“

“Really? I’ve never seen it before.”

“Yeah, yeah. You haven’t seen a lot of things before, I know. Now put a little dagta at the tip and presto!”

“How’s that supposed to catch fireflies?”

“It’s like glue okay? You poke the dragonfly and ta-da it’s caught.”

-and learned quickly that she’s easily impressed.


FICTION

66 “Lo, I have a visitor.” Diane bellowed at the house as she removed her slippers to enter. Their house entirely different that his house, Martin concluded, besides the fact that the two were in the same vicinity there wasn’t any similarities anymore. In which his house looked like it was plucked straight out of one of the books about Spanish times (which posed as a problem for them, with robbers and all) hers looked newly renovated because it was. If Martin remembered correctly, Diane mentioned that every time she visited the house something was always new.

“Martin? Oi, come in already.” Diane poked her head out of the doorway and dragged Martin inside.

After nearly a month of spending nearly every day together, they already knew a lot of things about each other. Like how Martin will never win an argument and how she had the right to get mad if he was late but he didn’t. “O apo, kalako ‘di kanauuwi ah.” Mang Lucero orMang L as he would like to be called jokingly stated upon seeing his granddaughter. He was a good old man; Martin grew up with stories about him from his very own grandmother.

Mang L reached over and pats his granddaughter’s head, messing her braids.

“Lo!” Diane protested in vain and proceeded to fix her hair back.

The old man grinned and looked over her shoulder and saw Martin. “Martin? Aba, what brings you here apo?” The young boy walked over the seated man on his rocking chair and lifted his hand to his forehead, “Inay asked me to deliver these. Kamusta rin daw po.” Martin lifted the blue plastic bag and gave it to Mang L. Diane’s grandfather opened the plastic half-way and looked up to Martin, “Ube? But I didn’t order anything, apo.” “I ordered it for you Lo, I noticed that we didn’t have any more so…yeah.” Diane interjected, still smoothing her mussed hair. Her voice was laced with awkwardness that it made her grandfather smile a bit more. (four)

“Hey, help me up.”

Martin looked down from his position up his tree and rolled his eyes, “Didn’t I already teach you how to climb a tree? So that I wouldn’t have to drag you up? Mabigat ka kaya.”

Diane frowned and sneered at him, “In case you can’t see, may hawak po kaya ako no.”

And sure enough Diane was holding a spring notebook with a ball pen in between the springs and a small knitted bag from his mother. Martin sighed and jumped down from the tree.

“Okay, go up. I’ll hand them over to you when you get there.” ***


FICTION

Settled above the tree, protected by the leaves of the mango tree the two sat.

67

“What’s in the notebook anyway?” Martin asked after making himself comfortable and safe. Diane, who was still new to climbing trees, tossed him the notebook.

“See for yourself.” Diane replied, her arm still around a thick branch in fear of falling.

Martin ran a hand through his hair and scratched his nose before opening the notebook. Inside it were the activities they’d done together, activities he said they’d do together and her comments about each written in assorted colored pens.

“What’s this?”

Diane sighed, “I’ll be going home soon, so I figured I’d show you the list a.k.a the plan for next summer-“

“Do you need to have a plan for everything?” Martin interjected.

The city girl blinked, “Of course. How’s life going to be without plans? Like what do I plan to do for college, I mean, it won’t follow the plan exactly but… it’s kinda nice to have a guide.”

Martin looked away, having the feeling that he already knew what she was going to ask next.

“You. What are your plans?”

Martin sighed, “I don’t know. College isn’t really common around here…” he laughed and shook his head, “Anyway, ‘Tay bought a pig yesterday wanna see it?” Without waiting for her (positive) answer, Martin jumped down.

Diane nodded to him eagerly but paused as if remembering something.

“Hey!” He waved from below.

Diane held up her hand and whipped out her cell phone, “Wait lang ah, I think the reception’s better up here.” (five)

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

Martin peered over the cage, “Girl.”

“Oh.” Diane didn’t have anything against people raising livestock or anything but she didn’t really know how they could stand the stench! Ugh. Especially pigs. They weren’t even cute! “Anak, will you give her a bath? Tinakasannanamanakongkuyamo eh.” Mang Billy entered the pigsty with


FICTION

68 a cigarette between his lips as Diane always sees him with. “O Diane, you’re here too. Why don’t you two-?” “’Tay, don’t. I’ll do it myself.” Martin interrupted. Really, his father wouldn’t stop on going on and on about the two of them.

Sometimes he wondered who’s mature and who’s not between him and his father.

Mang Billy raised a scarred eyebrow and puffed out some cancer smoke, he patted his big belly and said,

“’Ba, what did you eat today, anak?” “’Tay…” A threat lay underneath Martin’s voice. *** “Tie it properly or we might have to chase her later.” Martin commented as he approached Diane by the coconut tree. The two pails in his hands swayed as he walked, spilling water to the cracked soil.Diane was hopelessly trying to tie the thick rope around the trunk of the tree. “Yeah, yeah. Wait—There!” Diane wiped the sweat off her forehead. Was it her or the days were getting hotter? “Hay, let me.” Martin dropped the pails and tightened the thick rope around the coconut tree. “Seriously, paghahabulin mo pa ata ako ng baboy eh.” Diane huffed and fished her cell phone from her hoodie’s pocket. “You know, it’s a good thing you told me about the electricity rotation. Or else I wouldn’t even get to use my phone.”

The phonelooked too bright in Martin’s eyes.

“What do you need it for? Your parents arrived a few weeks ago right?”

Mr. and Mrs.Santamaria were nice people. Polite and curious.

“Friends, duh.”Diane rolled her eyes. Martin shrugged, and threw the first pail of water over the squealing pig. Water splash around and the pig did little to nothing in stopping it because instead of staying still, it shook the water off.

Diane stepped back and slipped her phone back her hoodie pocket, “Hey, why don’t we name her?”

Looking up from scrubbing the pig’s back, Martin asked, “Why?”

Diane scratched the back of her ear and shrugged, “Why not? Tito Billy said you’d be keeping her around for breeding right? I mean, what’ll you call her? ‘Yung baboy’? Harsh.”

Clearly, his and her priorities were worlds apart but he conceded. “Okay, what?”


FICTION

The girl across him grinned, “Baba from mataba.” And she snorted a laugh he heard for the first time.

*** Later that afternoon, Martin saw Diane off to her house.

69

“Wait a second, here.” Shoving a piece of folded and slightly wet paper to Martin, Diane grinned. “I made a copy of the list for next summer, so you won’t forget.” Martin wiped his hands on his pants and took the paper. He read the contents out loud, “Climbing a tree, check. Making ube, check. Bicycle ride, check… Washing a pig –unplanned- check.”Martin looked up to the girl with a smirk tugging at the sides of his lips, “This shouldn’t be checked, all you did was tie the ropes and even that…”

“Hey!” Diane laughed and slapped his toned arm.

“Diane! Merienda na!” Diane looked up and saw her mother across the street waving to her. With a roll of her eyes, she waved back.

She then turned back to Martin, “We’d be leaving tomorrow. Take care of Baba okay?”

(seven)

She comes and she goes.

He takes care of Baba even after she gave birth to Solomon, Edith, David, Juliet and Cleo.

It’s two of the constants in his life.

(eight) “Oi kuya, you’re syota’s back ah.” Martin glared at his younger brother and threw a pillow over to him. Max dodged and laughed, “Why don’t you visit her anyway? Ay, you know what kuya? I saw her earlier with Shane, they were riding a bike.”

The older frowned and stood up.

He needed to feed Baba. ***

“Martin!! Hoy!” Martin turned his head and saw Diane crossing the street to their house. She grinned and he thought he saw her teeth shine under the sunlight.

The fifteen year old squinted, “What’s in your mouth?”


FICTION

70 Diane grinned, showing off her braces. The boy beside her peered over, small squares on each tooth had him taking a step back.

“Braces. I got them a few months ago.”

“For what?”

“Sungki kasi ipin ko. It’s ugly, ugh.” Diane turned around and entered his house, leaving Martin licking his uneven teeth by the doorframe. ***

It was a summer to remember and each and every thing on the list was ticked off half-way the vacation.

They had gathered shells –

“Look what I found! Ouch-! What was that?!”

“Let me see. Ah, may namamahaykasi.”

“Huh?” “Nevermind.”

--butchered a chicken—

“Oh my god, oh my god.”

“Stop flailing and start plucking!”

--went fishing—

“Look I caught one! It’s moving, quick, quick get it off!”

“I will if you quit swinging it around!”

“I’m not swinging it around! It’s the fish, okay?!”

“Aray! Ano ba?!”

--and cooked said fish together. ***

“’Nak, deliver this to Mang Lucero o and remind him of his debt please?” Max looked up from his marbles and complained, “Does it have to be me, ‘nay? Why not kuya? He hadn’t done any deliveries since last week ah!”


FICTION

71

Said older brother frowned, “I was busy.”

box.

“Pfft. Busy.” Max mocked and continued to play with his marbles, just one more marble to knock off the

“Stop arguing you two, ang aga-aga ah. Martin, deliver these.” Margarita turned to her second child and handed him the plastic bag. “Your brother’s right, it seems you’re forgetting your responsibilities anak.” “But ‘nay, me and Diane—“

“It’s for Mang Lucero.”

He was out the door before Margarita even blinked.

(nine) “Apo, Martin’s here.” Diane paused the game on her iPad and looked up. “Oh hey Martin, did we have anything planned today?”

Martin tugged at his sleeve and scratches his elbow, “No, I’m here for deliveries.”

“Oh. I see.” Without any more acknowledgements, Diane turned back to her Angry Birds. If only she could hit that stupid pig… Martin stood in front of her awkwardly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He noticed the tiles were new and so was the chair she was lounging in. Not to mention the thing she was holding.

“I’m on my way to collect mangoes. Do you want to come?”

Diane muttered a curse when her bird sailed over her targets, “What? I’ll pass. Didn’t we climb that tree yesterday? Naku, don’t you think the fruits might be all gone?”

Martin’s lips pursed into a straight line, “It’s a different tree.”

Diane looked up, “But still a mango tree.”

“Kuya, where are my mangoes?”

“Hanging on the tree, go get them yourself.”

***

*** “Hey. Martin! Hey!” Diane jogged up to Martin who looked hell bent on ignoring her. Diane frowned and grabbed his shoulder, “Martin, come on.”

Martin shrugged off her grip and continued to walk towards the bakery.


FICTION 72

“Hey! I woke up early for this! Come on! I said, ‘sorry’!”

Diane heaved a sigh and continued to jog towards the only bakery of the town. The line was considerably long, being morning and such- pandesal, as always- and Martin had no choice but to fall in line.

“Martin, hey, come on.” Diane whined and poked Martin. Once.Twice.

“Stop it.” The young man caught her hand and threw it down.

Diane’s eyebrow furrowed, “Fine be like that. What’s the big deal anyway?”

(ten) He wondered how many relationships ended like his and hers. With a simple, shallow even, fight they ended up not talking altogether. Martin threw some kangkongover to Baba’s cage and frowned when the pig did nothing but lie there. It had been days since Baba last ate.

He tried to fix it; he really did but that stupid iPad ruined everything.

“Ba? Baba? ‘Tay! ‘Tay! Si Baba!”

It got harder to spend time with her with a patched up summer friendship and nothing he did seem to impress her anymore. Martin almost felt bitter as he watched his father’s friends carry Baba out of his cage and to the ditch he dug himself. Today was the day; she and her family were going back to Manila. For one whole summer, the first in three years, he didn’t drop by their house and did every trick in the book he knew to avoid delivering ube to Mang Lucero. The sun was high in the sky, raining down hot rays on the land. The asphalt on the cracked roads was hot and the carabao in the field beside her house was rolling in the mud, attempting to cool itself down. It was as if everything was normal, it was as if nothing died. It was as if everything was normal and perhaps it was, just not to him. Here he was, hiding himself at their house’s veranda while peeking in between the mini-pillars. She was wearing the same thing she had word when she arrived this summer and the same knitted bag his mother gave her. He imagined that inside that bag were her camera, cell phone, iPad and iPhone –and he still didn’t know the difference between the two- while crouched at their veranda, the same one where he taught her how to play jolen, built back probably twenty years ago and never been renovated.

When they all left, Martin stayed looking around.

Baba was buried under the same coconut tree where she was first bathed; behind the same house Martin had lived in since forever with its same chipped paint coming off its walls. From his spot, Martin could see the


FICTION

73 same road he walked through almost every day, the asphalt with its cracks and the trees with their leaves. He also saw the same houses around his own, with the same colors and same flaws.

Martin looked around again and realized why.

He had nothing new to offer.

(one)

She didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come back the next summer and the summers after that.

Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one of the constants in his life.


FICTION 74

SUNRISE FROM THE FIFTEENTH FLOOR by Alyanna Janine Villa-Real

I stare out the window. All I see are buildings, parking spaces and empty lots from up here. The fifteenth floor corridor is usually quiet at this hour. Come to think of it, it’s always quiet here, just footsteps and hushed conversations. The sun is slowly rising now, chasing away the dusk. Clouds are casting shadows in the different shades of blue and orange. I’ve seen sunrise from this window over and over again, but I never get sick of it. It’s quite calming, watching how light seeps in and floods the hallway with sunshine. I can almost feel the warmth. The hallways are painted white and so are the tiles. The floor plan is divided equally among rooms, nurse stations and lavatories. Windows, doors, everything is symmetrical. If clean and orderly was a place, it would definitely be right here. Hospitals cannot be anything less. An announcement was made over the intercom. I turn to leave the window and proceed to walk down the hall. I pass by some of the staff: nurses, doctors and janitors. They’re all about, minding their own business. I observe them quietly. An oncologist is fooling around with a nurse on this floor. I think she’s new. They discreetly leave a supply closet together. His wife is a pediatrician, I saw her at the Christmas party with him. The janitor is quite old and has this weird habit of poking around in the garbage and keeping things. He casually takes a plastic container from the trashcan I pass. Then I see the floor head, Nurse Janet. She’s a thin woman that has been working here for two decades. Following close behind her is a young man in his early twenties, more or less. Who is he? I’ve never seen him before. Nurse Janet doesn’t have any children. He’s carrying a bouquet of flowers. Is he visiting someone?

That’s odd. Visitors are only allowed from eight to eleven in the morning. That’s two hours from now.

I follow them.

For me, the fifteenth floor is a very depressing place. It’s called the Neurological Critical Care Unit. It is dedicated to patients with disorders concerning the nervous system – brain, spinal cord and nerves. I’ve been here long enough to know all the patients and the reasons why they’re here. A handful is plagued with genetic disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. It couldn’t be avoided. Some have lifestyle-related ailments like stroke and scoliosis. Maybe they could have lessened their chances. Then there are people who are here because of a serious accident. They end up with paralysis, brain injury or worse, slip into a coma. They’re both lucky and unlucky ones. Reality is cruel, constantly toying with people’s emotions. Their families are relieved that they survived, but mourn the fact that their loved one is trapped in a vegetative state and full recovery remains unknown. Room 15-4A The room used to be occupied by a middle-aged man named Steven. From what I gathered during my stays in his room, he’s a cameraman with a wife and two kids. On the day he had surgery to get his brain tumor removed, something went wrong. He never woke up after the operation. The doctors said he was sleeping. The removal of the tumor triggered a coma-like state. After six months, no progress was made. Yesterday, the family decided to pull the plug. Because most of the people on this floor are in critical conditions, there’s always a nurse in every room to keep an eye on the machines keeping the patients alive and well. I enter the room and the door closes. Nurse Janet and the guy anxiously turn their heads.


FICTION

75

“Oh, it’s just Trina,” Nurse Janet says, “Trina, this is Charlie.”

“It’s Chuck,” he insists.

“He’s a friend of the patient, so don’t mind him. Charlie, please remember to leave before eight, alright? I don’t want you getting into any trouble.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”

Nurse Janet smiles and leaves the room. I shuffle to the corner and stand at my post. Charlie puts the flowers in a vase on the bedside table. He drags a chair and sits next to the bed. That’s the only time I take notice of the patient. She looks very frail, it’s quite alarming. Her long dark hair is braided and her cheekbones jut out of her pale skin. I can tell that she used to be much prettier.

He takes her hand, holds it tight and says, “Happy Birthday, Caitlyn.”

“It’s almost been a year since I saw you. You’ve lost a lot of weight.” His voice almost sounds sorry. “I was told that you changed floors last night. The last floor you stayed at was really tight. Your parents made sure I could never visit you. As soon as heard, I contacted a relative that works here and he introduced me to Nurse Janet. She said she could sneak me in before your parents could rig the floor.” It’s like a modern tale of Romeo and Juliet. I wonder why her parents wouldn’t let him visit. “So, I’ looked up comatose and I read some bizarre stories. There’s this little girl from the UK. She caught meningitis and fell into a coma. After five days of being unconscious, she woke up singing Mamma Mia! by Abba. Pretty weird, right? There’s this other incident in Croatia. After being unconscious for a day, a thirteen year-old girl woke up not understanding Croatian and instead, spoke in fluent German. The one story that struck me most was about a woman in the UK. She suffered disorientation and seizures. Doctors couldn’t diagnose her. They put her in an induced coma for three weeks to try and save her life. When she woke up, her entire memory was erased. She forgot how to walk, talk and everything.” I found Charlie’s story rather scary. I cannot imagine what that might be like, waking up with everything you knew gone from your head – a hollow existence. And from the looks of Charlie, I can tell that he’s pretty scared too, scared for Caitlyn. Her condition is serious, not a lot of people wake up from a coma and just walk away from it. “This might be the last time I get to see you . . . here in the hospital. When you wake up, you might not remember everything clearly. Your parents might even change the story to fit their liking. I want you to know the truth. I know you’re listening to me, Caitlyn. Here’s my side of the story.” “We met at a secondhand bookstore. We both wanted the cheap copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary. You were insisting that I shouldn’t read it because it might tamper with my testosterone levels. The book, we agreed, went to the person who could recite a longer poem. I won with Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice but I still let you buy the book. You called me Chuck because you thought Charlie was a sissy name. We spent most of that afternoon and the following ones talking about the books we liked and how Hollywood makes such bad adaptations of them. You said the worst was Percy Jackson. I said it was The Shining. We went out for two months. Usually, we buy coffee and go to bookstores. You never liked it when I try to hold your hand. You kept telling me that it was weird. But I always tried. Then, one day, I met up with you and said that a friend of mine was having a party. I drove us there and we had a few beers and that’s it. You met some of my weird friends and we all played Rockband


FICTION

76 At around three in the morning, the party was declared over. I was about to take you home when I had an idea. SLEX was just around the corner. I thought it would be nice to watch the sunrise from Tagaytay. So, we put on a Katy Perry CD and drove there. A drive through at McDonalds was our breakfast. We ate hashbrowns while I looked for a good spot to watch it from. The windows were rolled down and it was really cold. We parked and sat on the trunk. And that was the first time I held your hand.” At this point, Chuck’s eyes are glassy. He places his head on Caitlyn’s hand and continues the story in a cracked voice. He begins sobbing. “I swear to God I wasn’t drunk! I would have never driven if I was. We were about to go in the highway. There was a really bright light and a loud honk. It slammed on your side. I broke my collarbone and had a lot of stitches. My parents told me that another car hit us, its brakes were broken. Your parents refused to believe me. The said that tests showed we were both intoxicated and they declared that it was my fault. Completely my fault.”

I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. My chest began to hurt, like I couldn’t breathe. I tried to stay still.

“I’m sorry we drove to Tagaytay. If we didn’t, you wouldn’t be like this. Please wake up, Caitlyn. Please.”

He sat up and wiped his face with his hand. He looked at the wall clock and it was a quarter to eight already. He stood up and kissed her forehead. This might be the last time he ever sees her. All of a sudden, an array of sounds disrupts the monotonous hum of the machines. Panic was written on Chuck’s face. I couldn’t move. The nurse, Trina, runs out the room and calls for a doctor. People rush in. Nurse Janet attends to the machines. I couldn’t breathe. A couple also comes in and surrounds the bed, both in terror. The woman sees Chuck and proceeds to scream obscenities at him but her husband refocuses her attention. A doctor appears and tells them to stand back. Chuck and her parents could only look on in horror and anguish. A defibrillator is rolled in. The doctor grabs the paddles, “CLEAR!”

I feel a huge jolt of electricity through my chest.

The machines return to the normal beat. A sigh of relief washes through the room. Chuck begins crying again and Caitlyn’s parents embrace her tight. The doctor couldn’t figure out what just happened.

It was 7:49. My name is Caitlyn. One year and four months ago, I was hit by car.


FICTION

77

CONSTANT by Marionne Jay Shimada

In the distance, she heard a dog bark. The barking turned to howling, and soon enough incessant howls filled her ears. Somewhere closer to where she was, a lady’s voice yelled, then muffled gruff voices; a few seconds later, fading echoes of hurried thuds followed. Her mind wrapped around these sounds, choosing to focus on the unsettling crescendo of the dog’s growls and the eerie silence of the night, and deliberately blocking out the sporadic moans of the man beneath her. The moments he chose to stay silent were the moments she chose to reflect in the punishment she had brought upon herself. Every three seconds or so he would howl, and along with his inhuman moans was the rhythmic shoving of himself into her, not in the very least minding that she had her eyes shut tight and her fists on either side of his head, clenched. He didn’t mind that her crying out with every thrust he made was neither of pleasure nor of excitement or gratification; it was out of obligation and compulsion, and maybe perhaps out of responsibility. It didn’t even hurt her now, and she despised herself more for it. Nights like these weren’t uncommon anymore; only the surroundings were. The men varied; in age, for instance. Her youngest patron (she refused to acknowledge them as customers) was barely even a man—seventeen years old, to be exact, who was leeching off what his parents believed to be his college tuition. Her eldest was a balding but fairly able eighty-two-year-old, who kept swearing in Spanish as he climaxed, but in a less private context, conversed with her in her native tagalog. The environment changed, from time to time, patron to patron. It was on this particular evening that her patron chose to rendezvous in a small inn in an unkempt subdivision. If she tried hard enough, she could even make out the rasping guffaws of the men drinking their day’s earnings in front of the liquor store just around the corner. She had better days, oh yes she did. One patron, middle-aged and CEO of a certain advertising company chose to have her in one of the presidential suites of a five-star hotel, and insisted on paying for a midnight buffet, for added energy, he had said. The night went fairly well, and she had no nightmares. She tried convincing herself that she wasn’t cheating, but the more she came up with reasons to back it up, the more she felt she should be punished. After two years, everything was routine to her now. She would arrive at the venue, allow her body to be used for whatever purpose might satisfy her patron, collect her earnings, and then redeem herself. Her patrons came to her as frequently as her nightmares did when she had no companion for the evening. Every night, she would remember the man who had made her into the woman she is now, and every night, as much as she hated him, she knew she could never escape him. *** “Tatang! Tatang!” she sobbed, her tears mingling with sweat dripping from the man’s body towering over her. The man’s face she could not see, but the smell of smoke and beer from his mouth as he breathed heavily with every push was familiar. She tried to call out again, “Tatang!” but her cries were drowned by the grunts and roars of the man on top of her and the lusty breathing of the man beside her as he vigorously rubbed her breasts. Unable to see clearly because of the tears, she wasn’t sure how many men were there with her—two? Three? But one thing she was certain of was that her father was in the room, watching her cry as she was being slammed into like some machine by his intoxicated co-workers. He had brought her here in the first place; telling her this was what would happen if he caught her again with a boy. She didn’t know what to expect. She was sixteen. “I’m sorry! I won’t go near him ever again!” she pleaded—not with the men who were with her on the floor, but with the man seated on a rattan stool to her far left, holding a half-finished cigarette to his mouth and watching her with only a knowing look in his eyes, and nothing more. ***


FICTION

78 Oftentimes her mother would ask why she did this to herself. Do what, she had asked, and her mother pointed to the appointment book and the business cards of her patrons in reply.

“You’re a college graduate, anak. You can do so much better than this.”

“I’m a secretary, Inang.”

“We both know what I’m talking about.”

True, her mother knew what she’s been doing on nights, but her mother didn’t know what had been done to her daughter for her to live like this.

And she probably never will. ***

“Please, ‘tang, please…” she begged her father, but he heard none of it. He continued to drag her towards the small, dingy room at the far end of the junk shop where he and his comrades have been drinking lately. “I stayed away like I said I would…” she was crying now, and she continued to plead with him. “Please, tatang, I don’t even talk to him anymore!” He grunted in reply, and held her even tighter. They had entered the room now, and he threw her to the floor. Earlier that day she had stood proud in the gown she had borrowed from her cousin, as her class adviser placed the tiara on top of her head, and told her she was the prettiest Reyna Elena ever to represent their school. The gown was revealing, but beautiful nonetheless; maroon, ankle-length, and the neckline somewhat plunging down to just above her abdomen. There were no sleeves, but she had worn a shawl around her arms. During the parade her mother had stood outside the house, and even waved to her as her float passed. Her father, meanwhile, had been standing outside the building they were working on, and when she saw him look at her, his eyes had been full of contempt and an ache she didn’t understand. She looked away. “What were you thinking wearing that piece of cloth you call a dress today?” he grunted, while he lit a cigarette and proceeded to blow on it. “It was Clara’s, ‘tang, it was hers. Please, it was hers...” This time there were no more men, it was only him and her. He put down his cigarette on a tray in front of him, and pulled her face to his. “I don’t want any daughter of mine dressed in something like that again, do you understand?” She nodded, vigorously, hoping that he would let her go now. She blurted out promises, promises that she would never wear a dress again, that she would not let herself dress that revealing again, promises she hoped would appease him. Instead he looked away, and when he turned his head to catch her eyes, he pulled off her blouse from her frame as a few buttons popped out of their stitches from the force. She cried out, begged for him to let her go now, that she would behave herself. He acted as though he didn’t hear a word, and proceeded to rip away her skirt. His hand was soon in between her legs, and not even ten seconds later, he entered her. It was useless to cry now, but she still did. She cried for herself, for her father, and for the illusion she wanted to believe she was in. *** She never understood why he did this to her, even from when he first let his friends take her on, one-byone, at times even simultaneously. She never understood his contempt, nor did she ever attempt to understand, for fear that if she asked him about it he would do it to her more often. She never told her mother either; he


FICTION

79

threatened her that if she ever told anyone about it, he would leave her and take her mother with him. She couldn’t have her mother taken away from her; it was enough that her father was doing things to her, she didn’t need her mother dragged into whatever she was in. She grabbed her purse from the table, and locked the door as she left. Her patron tonight was a regular, and she was meeting him in a hotel not far from where she lived. ***

“You know why,” he told her as she sobbed, slumped across the wet floor of the junkshop. She shook her head, unable to speak because of the pain of the aftermath. She couldn’t take it anymore, she wanted everything to end. That night there had been five men. She had felt hollow, worthless, and she wanted everything to stop. She had screamed along with every thrust, and with every shove, she had felt her control slipping. Finally she had stopped crying, stopped screaming, and she kept her silence until after each of the men finished with her. The tears started when they went away, and she was left with the man who had caused her so much suffering. As usual, he looked at her in that indifferent way, and as he approached her, hand outstretched to tear away her skirt, she knew she could no longer live with the sort of fear she has for her father and for everything he’s been doing to her. His cigarette rested on the tray, smoke still coming from its end, small sparks still visible through the ash. As soon as his fingers made contact with her arm, she broke away, grabbed the cigarette from the tray and pressed it against his neck. He cursed, and startled, lost his balance. She took the few seconds she had, and without thinking, grabbed a screwdriver lying around. When she felt him grab her shoulder, she abruptly turned and stabbed his neck. Blood began to spurt out his mouth, his neck, then his eyes rolled to the back of his head. *** “I-is this w-w-what you like? Huh? T-this,” he managed in between breaths as he worked his way down. She was used to her patrons talking nonsense every time they were in bed. She focused on the fraying hem of the blanket pooled at the head of the bed, and breathed heavily as he reached a particularly sensitive part of hers. He begged for her to get under him, but she refused. Instead, she let him enter her from behind. Most of her patrons enjoyed that, anyway. If there was one rule she followed, it was that she could never be under. Her patrons always had to be beneath her. That way, she had control.


POETRY 80

LIBATION IN MEMORY OF (AN EXORCISM) by Franz Edric Bangalan I lay my heart to you (i lay it on your feet) I lay it at your carcass (your immortal carcass) (it is only just) that you (that i) may find peace (seek peace) (peace! lovely peace!) I wish for (your) eternal rest my heart cannot go on (your immortal carcass haunts it) So I lay my heart at your feet (your lovely shambling feet) and pray for us both (trapped in this earth undead â&#x20AC;&#x201C; oh god! oh god!) I offer my heart I pray for redemption (for liberation) (i pour wine on your carcass like the greeks)


POETRY

WAKING UP AND REGAINING CONSCIOUSNESS by Angeli Bañaga Waking up and regaining consciousness, The last thing I want Is to occupy my mind with things I haven’t done yesterday Or the day before. Homework, maybe A reading, projects, or – It’s a new day After all, for me to start with: Blankly, driving to school Passing familiar roads and buildings Expecting to see the usual traffic Making me think, I’ll be late for class. Soon enough it would dwindle And I rush to a stretch Lined with unfinished houses, The wide lane crowded With people blocking my way For a good minute or two. Proceeding, I cruise through A more pleasant scenery, Manicured lawns and architectural masterpieces; Sprawling properties, to my left And right. Moving ahead, a turn for the worse As far as I can see, shanties hug The too narrow street and I Forget the previously seen. Afterwards, I speed up an incline and leave behind That image, and am now near my school. Getting there, I walk towards the entrance Of buildings, greeted by the sight of vendors Who situate themselves At the side, on the pavement or on the steps, or Sometimes leaning against posts, waiting For customers, and not me Who only goes straight to class Where I listen and possibly Also understand. Not in the least Worried about how I’ll go home, What’s for lunch, or if This class is already paid for. During breaks I stride through halls where posters Are plastered against the corridor, telling me one thing Or another. Just like going to the restroom

81


POETRY 82

Where I glimpse at vandalisms And perhaps messages. Later, I head to a hangout Swarmed not only with friends But with children who are in school But are not Wanting me to spare them A glance, a moment of weakness. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Instead, I leave With a full head, I drive back. Arriving home, I mile around, lounge and Busy myself with my own Business until itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time for bed. And as I retire I convince myself, Tomorrow is a new day Or another day


POETRY

CLOSING TIME: 10 PM by Fatima Clarene Wong We glance

at the tired and broken toys with the missing parts of their hollow bodies that reside in plastic that dine in plastic and probably eat artificial

at the stain in that one faded shirt sticking out of the dryer with the frayed seams from one too many tumbles at the scratched surfaces of cells that hang after composing messages and the faint ringing of clocks which have almost lost all energy to tick at calendars and closets and desks with too much space filled up filed into by fingers tapping swiftly across keyboards while silver clinks against plates then think

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Need to shop.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

83


POETRY 84

SKYWATCHING by Fatima Clarene Wong

We love to litter the skies with lanterns that choke the final gasps out of dying Decemberâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; etching across the stars, a slow dance in suspension blinding them with smoke a moment without mirrors and dimming their lights a triumph of the artificial while setting fire to the horizon. We watch from the pavements feet firmly planted heads inclined with mouths agape and sulfur creeping into our lungs overwhelmed by the desire of observing flight. We have nothing in the aftermath save firmly planted feet on ash-covered cement and dark clouds that foreground burning masses of matter from lightyears, lifetimes away. We look skyward,

waiting

for the heavens to shower the streets with miracles. But these stars, they ache for aviators to shine on.


POETRY

NOSTOS by Lea Marie DiĂąo There is no time machine. I repeat. There is no time machine. There is no time machine To take me back to the days When I was happier. The days when There were no screaming matches And throwing of punches. The days when all I had Was your eyes That spoke truth Your arms That held me tight And became my home The days when all we did Was dance And look like fools Talk about things We wished That actually existed Make music Together, to make Symphonies from our hearts There is no time machine. I repeat. There is no time machine. There isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t any machine To make you come back to me.

85


Franz Edric Bangalan John Rey Bencito Gabriela Cari単o Jizzer Lawrence Co Czarina Isabel de Leon Louise de Luna Jazreth Gaile Digao Lea Marie Di単o Jomari Evan Guiao Karenina Isabel Lampa Angela Theresa Mislang Adeliene Eve Paraso Priscil a Esther Relova Marionne Jay Shimada Albien Joy Sison Alyanna Janine Vil a-Real Fatima Clarene Wong John Colin Yokingco

the team

Franz Edric Bangalan | Editor-in-Chief Angela Theresa Mislang | Editor Priscil a Esther Relova | Editor Fatima Clarene Wong | Editor | Layout John Colin Yokingco | Editor

contributors

Angeli Ba単aga

STASIS  

The UP Lingua Franca Journal (2011 - 2012)