The Ghost in the Shower Room (Part 3)

Fiction by | July 11, 2022

“I also saw the ghost in the shower room,” I tell Marcus, who’s peacefully eating his breakfast. His mouth falls open in disbelief.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

“I am.”

“When did you—”

“Are you sure you were not dreaming?” Owen laughs, a little bit over the top.

“I know I said before that I don’t believe in ghosts and such, but now that I witnessed it myself, it’s actually scary,” I explain.

Gab is silent.

“I told you it’s real!” Marcus exclaims.

“Maybe you’re just hallucinating or something,” says Gab. “You’re not wide awake, right? Maybe you just saw what you wanted to see.”

“Who wants to see a ghost?” I ask.

“What does it look like? Did you see it?” Marcus asks.

I am hesitant to answer the question. What if it appears in front of me tonight?

“Come on, tell us,” Marcus urges.

“You don’t need to tell us,” Gab says.

“Yeah, just forget about it,” Owen adds.

“Actually, it doesn’t look like a ghost,” I say.

“What do you mean?” Marcus asks.

“I think it’s a demon, like what Sr. Jenny said.” Their eyes are now fixed on me. “Ghosts can’t duplicate their bodies, right? I couldn’t see clearly in the dark, but I saw a body coming out from below the stomach of the creature I saw like it’s trying to detach itself.”

Owen coughs. Gab drinks water.

“Maybe it was really a wakwak or a sigbin,” Marcus says. “Or a manananggal?”

“Wakwak and sigbin can’t duplicate their bodies. And it didn’t have wings or halved body, so I’m positive it was not a manananggal either,” I say.

“Why didn’t you turn the lights on?” asks Marcus.

“I almost did, but I noticed the ‘ghost’ when a lightning strike. Then, I ran immediately.”

“That’s scarier than what I experienced.”

“Enough of that. Eat your bread and drink your milk. You haven’t touched it,” Gab commands.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight,” Marcus worries.

Me, too. Me, too.

 

Sr. Jenny knocks at our classroom the minute the first class starts. “May I excuse Gab and Owen?” she asks our teacher. I look at Gab and ask him what’s happening. “I don’t know,” he answers. I get the same reply from Owen. Their faces look so tired as if they didn’t get enough sleep last night.

At lunch, both Gab and Owen are nowhere to be seen. I start to get worried. Maybe they’re sick and went for a check-up in the infirmary? I tell myself. I look at Marcus, who is also not sure what’s happening.

“I think I heard them getting scolded by Sister last night,” he says. “I am not sure, but I think it’s Sister’s voice that woke me up last night. It was pretty loud like she was angry. After that, I saw Gab and Owen going to their beds.”

“What were they doing last night?” I ask.

“I don’t know.”

“We don’t have any assignments or projects that need to be rushed.”

Sr. Jenny enters our dorm and looks at the empty seats at our table. She looks angry. “Listen, everyone,” she says. “I sent Gab and Owen home.” Everybody goes silent. She doesn’t say anything else.

Even students with a failing streak in their grades are not sent home. It means Gab and Owen must have done something terrible—something that violates what this school and Sisters are teaching. I can’t believe it. My chest feels so tight I don’t think I can breathe. I want to cry. Will I ever see Gab again? What about Owen? What have they done? What’s happening?

We all remain silent. Sr. Jenny looks at Marcus, and then at me. She stares at us as if she wants us to say something, as if she knows some secret of ours and wants us to tell everyone about it. I know she thinks we know about Gab and Owen; I also hope I do, but I seriously do not know anything. “Marcus and Luis, follow me to the lobby.”

Marcus and I follow her; we stand in front of the giant mirror in the lobby. Sister looks at us with disgust; I know it because I have seen that look hundreds of times when she and other nuns look at Owen. I can feel her eyes interrogate us even before asking us any questions.

“Do you know anything about Gab and Owen?” she asks us. We don’t answer. It doesn’t matter even if we really don’t know anything. If we say no, will she believe us? Because of her tone, I know she thinks we know something. And what if we say yes? What will happen to us?

“I’m asking you a question,” She says.

“I don’t, Sister,” I say. I don’t have a choice.

“How about you, Marcus?” “I also don’t know anything about them, Sister.”

“Are you sure? You four were close,” she asks.

“Yes, Sister,” we reply.

“How come you don’t know anything? Aren’t you friends,” she asks. Just as I expected, there’s no getting away from her.

“They never tell us anything, Sister,” Marcus says. “And they act normal when we’re together.”

I only nod.

“If you don’t want to end up like them, you two should behave. If I catch one of you doing the same, I will not have second thoughts about sending both of you home. I don’t want any of you talking about this, okay? Do not tell anyone, even your dormmates,” Sr. Jenny warns.

At that moment, Marcus and I realized what they had done. But it doesn’t matter. They aren’t here anymore—Gab isn’t here anymore. It pains me so much I want to cry in front of Sr. Jenny. I never managed to express the feelings I have for him. I like him. Though, it seems he liked someone else.

 

Rumors start to roam around the campus again. This time, it’s not only about the supposed ghost in the shower room but also about Gab and Owen. Although everyone knows what they’ve done, some people just want to make their own story. Some exaggerate for the sake of telling a more exciting narrative, even if it’s a total lie.

“Why would Gab even want to talk about the ghost?” Marcus asks in a low voice.

“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe to let people think that he’s not at all connected to the rumors. Or maybe just to scare everyone, so no one catches them.”

“Like reverse psychology?” he asks.

“Maybe,” I reply.

“That explains why they’re so serious when we talk about what we saw and heard.”

“Exactly.”

“If only we knew something was up with them,” he says. “We could have told them to stop or wait until we graduate.”

“I guess we were never that close,” I reply. “If we were, we should have known or even felt something was off with them.”

Marcus nods. He turns his back on me and covers his face with his pillow. “Let’s sleep,” he says.

“Don’t cry,” I try to joke. I get up from my bed to close the windows. It’s windy tonight, and the sky is starless again. It almost feels like déjà vu. Only this time, no one’s going to ask me to wake him up when I’m scared, and there’s no ghost to fear.


Anthony S. Maluya is a graduating BA English (Creative Writing) student from the University of the Philippines Mindanao. He lives in Bukidnon.

All Roads Lead Home (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | July 4, 2022

Three years ago, on my first trip home from college, Isulan felt like home for the very first time. As soon as I stepped out of the van I took a picture of the Roundball, which was another first. The Roundball wasn’t a grand architectural feat—it’s just a rotonda—it was rugged and unkempt, yet its concrete base never seemed shaken. The statue of Sultan Kudarat stood on top, collecting dust from thousands of vehicles passing by each day, off to their own destinations. For something that stood there as long as I can remember, it’s anything but new. It reminded me that I was home. And I wanted to immortalize that moment. Perhaps it was that exact feeling of home, of warmth, that I wanted to carry with me wherever I went. Or maybe it was just an impulse.

After that spontaneous flick, I took a stroll on the empty highway—it was eight o’clock in the evening. The dust in the air stung my eyes and filled my lungs as I kept on looking and walking around streets and buildings that I would have overlooked if it had been any other moment than that. A couple of minutes later, I reached the old market, the palengke, and I noticed that a statue of a golden eagle has been erected in front of an old bakery, barbecue stalls with disco lights lined the pathway, street lights no longer flickering, tarpaulins and colorful banners of politicians flitted by the warm evening wind. The moon seemed to project a vague film on the concrete, the stars hummed, and street dogs sang. For a while, it looked like a Vincent van Gogh painting. Were all of these like this before?

I was taken back to reality when I checked my phone and saw four missed calls from Tatay. I realized then that I was truly back, but somehow I knew something was different. I felt like I needed to write about this moment, to translate my feelings on paper, to write a story. Such an impression made me reflect about the reality of the people selling barbecue every night, what their economic status was and how the political system affects their lives, their stories and motivations. How I could give them justice through my writing, one that could never be given by the faces on political campaign materials. I had never thought about these before. Perhaps nothing really changed in Isulan, I just didn’t care enough to look and see.

Still enamored by how mundane and peaceful everything felt, I thought to myself, “I am home.”

I told Tatay where I was.

 

Today, after being caged here for almost two years, I have yet to find another thing to try and write about. Isulan, a town of ninety-thousand in the province of Sultan Kudarat, has become sort of an enigma. I used to think that nobody cared about politics, about art, or the looming dread of capitalism. I was bored out of my mind. I wanted to prove to myself that there has to be more, here in my hometown. There were people I’ve met that made me reconsider my previous thoughts. One of them was a man I’ve only known for a month; he calls himself Mark, I call him Kuya. As I do every guy I think is older than me.

One day, I found myself in Kuya’s home. I accompanied my girlfriend to a business meeting there. He asked her to model for an “essential oils” promotional shoot. I made sure it was nothing shady, hence my unsolicited presence. The compound was big. Hundreds of plants organized in tight little spaces, some in pots, and others on the ground. “These plants weren’t here before the pandemic,” Kuya said. “Nanay really turned out to be a plantita.” I feigned a smile.

After the meeting, Kuya lit a cigarette and started to puff away; we were in a bahay kubo. Later I found out that Kuya’s father knew Tatay, and they were relatively close. It piqued my interest. I didn’t know if I was glad that Kuya and I had something in common, or annoyed because it really had nothing to do with me.

“Did you know I was in the PNP for five years?” Kuya said.

This fully-bearded man, riddled in tattoos, used to be a police officer? A promising one at that, too, as he later revealed. I asked why he broke away from the organization.

“I couldn’t see myself doing the same thing for ten, twenty more years,” Kuya answered. “I only wanted to prove myself to Tatay.”

He referred to his father as “Tatay,” as I did mine. And he was also the eldest son trying to prove himself to his father. I saw myself in him, and perhaps he saw himself in me. It felt easier to talk to him, to confess my deepest worries and curiosities. But I didn’t, I’ve only known him for a day. That afternoon, I knew I had to write about what happened. To immortalize the moment I met someone who I might, and could, have been.

The following day, I asked my girlfriend to come with me to Kuya’s house because I wanted to buy a plant. She was in disbelief because I had never been interested in plants. On the way there, I told her that it was for a school requirement about taking care of plants (it really wasn’t). I didn’t want her to think I wanted to visit Kuya for no reason, or anyone for that matter.

When we arrived, I saw Kuya smoking under the shade of a small coconut tree in the farthest corner of their garden; his little sanctuary. He seemed dazed by the lush greenery. Waking from his stupor, he grinned and waved at us. It was 11 a.m., just in time for lunch. I told Kuya why we were there.

“I’m sorry, Dave, I don’t think these are for sale,” he said. “Wait here, I’ll ask Nanay.”

I wanted to buy a pretty plant that was easy to take care of; low maintenance and beautiful to look at. Since we arrived, my girlfriend had already been scouting every inch of the garden, leaving no flowerpot unchecked. When Kuya came back, a woman who looked a little over sixty wearing a blouse as colorful as the garden, trailed beside him.

“This is the one I was talking about, ‘Nay,” Kuya said to his mother. “‘Tong bata ni Madriaga haw?”

“Oh you look like your father, ga,” auntie said. “So, how is he?”

“Police gihapon ah,” I answered. “He’s still on duty.”

“Oh, now I remember, you were that kid who ran back and forth and played all day in the barracks, like a kiti-kiti,” Auntie wiped a drop of sweat from her forehead with her blouse. “Ti, ano aton?”

I told her that I wanted to buy a plant for a school requirement. I nudged my girlfriend to point out which one she chose for me, as well as the one she wanted.

Aring duha ho?” Auntie pointed to the monstera and Pink Princess. “These are tiny.”

“It’s okay, auntie,” I said. “I only need it for school anyway.”

Auntie picked up the two pots of plants and put them in a plastic cellophane.

“How much for these po?” I asked.

Inyo na na ga,” Auntie said. “Give my regards to your father.”

I turned to Kuya. He nodded in approval. “Thank you po.” I said.

As we were about to go home, Kuya asked us if we already had lunch. That was the invitation I hoped for. “Not yet, Kuya.” I answered.

The inside of the house was spotless. It had a slightly modern look with all the right angles and monotonous colorway, perfect complement to the rustic atmosphere of the garden. Medals and photos were hung on every side of the wall. I didn’t recognize Kuya in the photos; he was clean shaven and youthful, there was a spark in his eyes. Now, Kuya wore sunglasses wherever he went, even when we were having lunch.

Auntie served fried fish and homemade longganisa along with a huge bowl of steaming white rice. Kuya didn’t wait for us to scoop the rice first; he broke the awkward ritual of making visitors begrudgingly scoop rice first—I think I prefer it this way now.

“How do you like Isulan, Kuya?” My girlfriend asked.

“It’s all right. Peaceful,” he said. “Closer to family. It’s been two months since I came back.”

I thought he lived here his whole life.

“What did you do before then?” I took a bite of the longganisa.

“A lot of things, Dave. But I guess I’d call myself a businessman. See this?” Kuya took out shards of wood from his sling bag. “Do you know what this is?”

I had no idea.

“This is agarwood,” he said. “I used to sell this for a living.”

Aquilaria malaccensis. He handed me one of the wooden shards. It felt and looked normal, until I smelled it. It was unlike anything I smelled before. My girlfriend later told me that it was illegal to possess agarwood, much more sell it. Kuya said that a kilo could go up to a hundred thousand pesos, and the cost came from how scarce it was. Since Kuya immersed himself in this line of work, it took him two years to locate agarwood from all over the country. He also sold all sorts of illegal items—mostly nature-related— in the black market.

I knew then that he was a criminal. I started to feel uneasy, but he piqued my interest yet again. Kuya gave me one of the shards. “That’s worth five thousand pesos,” Kuya said. “Keep it.” I hesitated. Partly because of how expensive it was, but mostly because I didn’t want to feel indebted to him. I didn’t have a choice, he was basically shoving it inside my pocket.

At that time I didn’t know why I kept it, I wasn’t used to receiving gifts from strangers. But looking back, I might have kept it as a reminder of the troubles Kuya went through, and the sacrifices he had to make to find something valuable. Not just during his days as an illegal trader, but his time as a police officer; what made him change? If I were in his situation, would I have done what he did?  As it turns out, agarwood is the byproduct of the tree’s defense mechanism after enduring years of damage. It is said that the most damaged trees produce high quality agarwood.

We thanked Auntie for the meal and the plants before we went home. I nodded at Kuya and smiled before saying goodbye. I knew that wouldn’t be the last time Kuya and I would meet. On our way home, I realized that I haven’t paid a single penny for the things we were given. This was quite unusual since we were at the peak of the pandemic.

 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Isulan panicked. Borders were closed, quarantine passes were issued, vehicle sterilization drive-throughs were in every street, and nobody ever went outside without a facemask on. People started to hoard groceries; some people I knew bought five months worth. Others even stockpiled on liquor, the higher the alcohol content the better. It was said that drinking liquor could kill the coronavirus. Most people didn’t think twice about these kinds of information even when they only stumbled upon it on social media. Everyone was desperate when it came to battling the virus. (To be continued)


David Madriaga is a writer from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. He is a graduating student of the University of the Philippines Mindanao’s BA English – Creative Writing Program.

The house after the burial

Poetry by | June 13, 2022

We went home after the burial
to a house without her.
The house assumed she was just returning late.
But it did not feel her presence that afternoon,
and the next afternoon,
and the afternoons after that.
The walls did not hear her
high-pitched giggles and calm yells.
The floor did not brush against her
wrinkled tiny feet on always-dry slippers.
The sofas did not feel her
sit still while writing her expenditures.
The TV did not hear her
commentaries about the rights of women and farmers.
The kitchen did not smell her
overcooked average-tasting viands.
The bed did not caress her
loose, warm skin, shivering in the cold.
And outside, where I used to remove her white hair strands,
The trees they planted did not blow her
short frizzy hair crazy for treatments.
The dogs did not feel her
hand patting their thick greasy fur.
I guess they would forever wonder
where she went
and when she would return.
The house stayed static after the burial
like my grief, unmoving yet brutal.
For years, I just watched—stood as stone,
realizing this is no longer my home.


Jewel Mansia (Juju Liaison) is a graduate of AB English Language Studies at Ateneo de Davao University. She was the president of SALEM-The Ateneo Literary Society for two consecutive years (2019-2021). Her undying love for her mother is mainly the subject of her works. She always go back to her grief to reignite her passion.

Elém

Poetry by | June 13, 2022

Sugat sa kalingkingan
Iniinda sa tanang panahon.
Sa titig ng Araw
Ang hapdi’y tumatangis
At sa pagluha ng Langit
Dumadaluyong sa mga ugat
Ang dugong kayumanggi.

Sugat sa kalingkingan
Paglaon ay sumisidhi.
Pinalalim pa ang hiwa
Ng mga salitang patalim
Nangangako ng lunas
Pinupurol lamang ng hangin
Hanggang sa tuluyang mamanhid.

Sugat sa kalingkingan
Tagos buong katawan.
Pinutol ang lumang ulo
Kapalit ng bagong pag-iisip.
Ang kapasyahan ay paghilom
Daliri sa kamay ang gamitin.
Inutos ng pusong naninimdim.

Sugat sa kalingkingan
Bakas na lamang ng kahapon.
Paggaling ay nasa pag-ingat
Ng puting telang pinangtabon.
Sinlalim noong sugat
Ang buntong hininga ngayon
At ang pag-asang sa kinabukasan
Sasabay na sa pag-ahon.

 


Juno Marteen S. Vegas hails from the Municipality of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat. He serves his hometown as youngest member of the Sangguniang Bayan and head of the Lebak Historical Commission. He took up BS Accountancy in Ateneo De Davao University and graduated Cum Laude in 2015. Currently, Juno is a father of two and a CPA by profession.

Inayag Nga Lutak (Part 2)

Fiction by | June 13, 2022

Pag-abot sa siyudad sang Koronadal, ginbaligya anay sang mag-amay ang ila mga bitbit nga produkto para makabakal sang bugas, kape, kag kalamay pabalik sa ila puluy-an sa Sitio Kibul. Ginsulay sang mag-amay ang tagiti sang udto adlaw kag ang nagakinaran-karan nga mga traysikel kag salakyan sa siyudad. Kag nagdesisyon magsulod sa capitolyo. Daw indi pa gani sila pasudlon sang guwardiya bangod sa daw indi maayo ang ila panapton, pug-is ang shorts, daan ang t-shirt, kag upud ang tsinelas.

Namilit gid ang amay kon paano maestorya ang gobernador nahanungod sang ila lupa sa Ned. Wala siya gintugutan sang guwardiya nga makaestorya ang gobernador, bangod kinahanglan pa ini sang booking. Didto siya ginpalakat sa Assessor’s office sang probinsya, gindaho-daho ini sang mga empleyado didto, kag wala man lang nakahangop sang maayo nga proseso sa iya transaksiyon. Buot hambalanon, wala sing may nahuman ang mal-am.

“Nong, didto ka anay balik sa inyo barangay, pangayo ka sang certificate kag valid ID para ma-proseso ang imo transaction balik ka didto anay sa Lake Sebu,” siling sang isa ka empleyado nga gintulok pa ang mga kubos babaw-dalom bangod sang ila panapton.

Nag-gwa na lamang ang makalolooy nga mag-amay sa kapitolyo. Naglibug ang iya ulo, wala man gani ini birth certificate, valid ID pa ayhan? Wala man lang may nakuha nga impormasiyon nahanungod sa ila lupa. Nagngulo-ngulo ang mal-am kag naglumaw-lumaw ang mata sa iya nadantan. Wala lang gihapon nakahangop sang nagakalatabo ang iya subang, nalingaw lang ini gihapon sa mga nagasinumbali nga salakyan sa gwa sang kapitolyo sa Alunan Avenue. Bitbit ang duwa ka kilo nga bugas, diutay nga kalamay sa ila sako bag, nagdiretso na lamang ang mag-amay sa paradahan sang van.

“Dali na, to, mauli nalang kita. Sa sunod nalang naton ini padayonon,” pangagda ni Nato sa iya subang nga daw sa indi magbulag ang mata sa mga salakyan nga bag-o niya lang nakita.

Samtang nagabyahe ang mag-amay, gina-isip ni Nato ngaa kabudlay gid maestorya si governor. Nagbalik sa iya hunahuna nga sang-una sang nagapapili pa ini, nagsaka man gani ini sa Sitio Kibul kag nangape pa kaupod ang iban pa nga miyembro sang tribu.

Pero karon nga ara na sila sa posisyon daw sa indi na sila matandog sang mga katawhan nga kubos. Ginsabak na lamang ni Nato si Olaw upod ang duwa ka kilo nga bugas para indi na masakop sang pagpanukot sang pamilete.

Galain sa gihapon ang buot sang mal-am.

Kag sang pag-abot sini sa paradahan sang van, nakibot ini nga gindapit ini sang duwa ka lalaki nga nakaitom. Ginkarga sa kotse kag ginbulag ini sa iya subang nga si Olaw. Daw nadulaan sang animo ang mal-am, daw naglubog ang iya isip angay sang suba nga lutakon sa Ned. Ngaa gindakop siya kag ginposasan sang duwa ka lalaki? Ano ang rason? Madalom katama ang palaligban sa iya angay sang madalom nga buho sang minahan lapit sa ila puluy-an.

Mangin si Olaw daw nakibot sa natabo sa iya amay, wala na ini nakapauli kaupod niya. Gindala na lamang siya sang iya Ninong Francis sa ila puluy-an bibit ang duwa ka kilo nga bugas, kalamay, kag kape.

Wala niya nahangpan ang mga nagakalatabo. Ngaa daw may libtong sa ila lugar? Ngaa malubog ang suba? Diin na ang lasang sang mga kasapatan kag kakahoyan? Kag ngaa wala kauli ang ila amay?

Samtang gapungko ini kag nagapanampuay sa ila panalgan, naurungan ang iya mata sa nagakarab-karab nga kalayo kag nagaindakal nga tubi sa takuri. Bisan wala ini tinulugan, nadula ang iya katuyuhon. Ang iya kahapon nga masaku nga mata sa dalagku nga bulldozer – naglumaw-lumaw na.


Alvin Larida is a teacher at Libertad National High School in Surallah, South Cotabato. He studied Education, majored in Chemistry and Physics at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City. He finished his master’s degree in Science Teaching at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He was the third prize winner of Malip-ot nga Sugilanon in South Cotabato (2019) and honorable mention during the Balay Sulat Sox: Play Writing competition (2021). He was awarded as third prize winner in Children’s Literature in Peter’s Prize 2021. Recently, he got honorable mention at Bantugan sa Panulatan Kinaray-a on his play.

Mananap

Poetry by | June 13, 2022

Kon akong pangutan-on
ang hulmigas,
Nga gabaktas diha karon
sa inyong dos andanas.
Iya ba kaha ning tubagon,
kon kinsa tong miduaw nimo
gahapon?

Kon akong pangutan-on
ang taluto,
Nga anaa diha nagpahiyom
sa suok-suok.
Iya ba kaha ning tubagon,
Kon kinsa ang rason
sa imong paghinuktok?

Kon akong pangutan-on
ang anay,
Nga dekadang namuyo diha
sa inyong balay.
Iya ba kaha ning matubag,
Kon ikaw ba nakabatig
pag-mahay?

Kanunay kong gabahis-bahis
sa inyong tugkaran.
Sa mga mananap nagpakaluoy
nga ila akong tug-anan.
Apan iwit na nakong nabantayan.
Imoha na silang gisabutan,
Ug dayon sab nila kining gituman.
Maong sukad karon, ilaha nakong
gilikay-likayan.


Writing poems and proses is Krisha’s passion. Krisha currently lives in the Province of Davao Oriental, taking the course of Bachelor of Elementary Education.

Inayag Nga Lutak (Part 1)

Fiction by | June 7, 2022

Wala pa ka sirak ang adlaw sang ginpukaw ni Nato ang iya subang nga bata – si Olaw. Natuyo pa ini kontani sa pagpulaw ka pamutos sang uga nga tilapya nga ipagalibod sa siyudad sang Koronadal pagkaaga. Wala mahimo si Olaw, wala pa ka pamalu ang sulog, na-una pa sa pagpamalu ang mainit nga tubi sa takuri. Nagbangon na ini.

“To, kinahanglan ta mangin aga paadto sa siudad subong,” kuon ni Nato sa gapanghimuta nga bata.

Nagtango lamang si Olaw kay tuman pa ini katuyo. Tayuyon nga nagdiretso sa wala pa nahuman nga pulutson nga uga.

“Naglakat diri kagab-i si Ninong mo Francis, to, nahanungod sa lupa ta diri sa Kibul.”

“Ano ang buot mo silingon, má,” pagpahangup ni Olaw sa iya amay.

“Nadumduman mo pa atong lupa ta sa Sitio Kibul? Ginbakal na daw kuno ato sang sang-una anay nga gobernador,” saad sini sa iya subang samtang ginabak-it ang naga-indakal nga ininit.

“Ti, ano nalang ang aton maisan, má? Indi bala ginhatag na ina sa aton ni teme sang siya nadula?”

“Amo ina ang aton asikasuhon karon. Mangin ako man, to, nabudlayan hangpon kon ngaa nabaligya ato sa gobernadora.” Naglungo-lungo na lamang si Berto kay bisan siya indi makahangop sa mensahe nga gindala sang iya kumpare.

Mga 58-anyos na nga nagapuyo sanday Nato sa Sitio Kibul, patay na ang iya una anay nga asawa sang ginbun-ag ang ila subang nga si Olaw. Bilang parte sang Tboli nga tuluohan, nakapangasawa pa si Nato sang duwa pa ka bes. Kag ginlumon ang duwa sa isa ka puluy-an. Bangud man sang kapigaduhon nagdesisyon nga mag-abroad sa pungsod Kuwait ang iya duwa ka asawa. Tatlo ang mga kabataan nga yara sa iya poder, lunsay mga bataon kag aratipanon.

Dali-dali ginpreparar sang mag-amay ang ila mga produkto nga ipagabaligya sa merkado: uga nga tilapya, ginrara nga abaka, kag siklat nga kawayan. Kinarga nila ini sang ila kabayo para mapanaog ang mga produkto kag makarga sa skylab paadto sa banwa sang Lake Sebu.

Daw indi maestorya si Nato samtang nagabyahe sila sa lutakon nga dalan, daw wala man lang kabatyag sang undag nga daw ginaayag ang iya huna-huna. Madalom katama ang nagadalagan sa iya utok. Naghipus na lamang si Olaw, samtang ginasabak ang iya mga pinutos nga uga nga tilapya.

Sa ila pagpanaog sakay sa skylab, daw galumaw-lumaw ang mata sang mal-am sang makita niya ang dalagku nga dump truck, back hoe, bull dozers nga nagakutkut sang mga pula nga bato sa idalom nga Sitio. Ang sadto anay nga matin-aw nga suba Alah, daw turugban na ini sang karbaw kag daw gindumugan sang mga mapintas nga sapat. Lutakon ang naga-ilig nga tubi kag tuman man kapilit ang lutak. Dala man sang dapya sa mayami nga hangin ang mabaho nga agwasa sang lutak halin sa suba.

Ayawan man ang drayber kapugong para lang indi makadalin-as sa lutakon nga dalanon.

“Grabe nagid gali ang pagpamina diri sa aton, to, no?” didto lamang nagwa ang limug ni Nato mag-isa na ka oras sang ila byahe.

“Oo, Nong Nato, ginsulod na kita diri sang Bulawan Mining. Sang pagsugod sang tuig, Nong, gintugutan na ni governor ang pagpamina diri sa aton Sitio,” sabat sang drayber nga hanas katama sa iya paglusot-lusot sa mga bangagon nga dalan.

“Copper kuno kag bulawan ang ara diri sa aton, Nong. Mga baynte anyos daw ang ila kontrata sa pagkali sang lupa,” dugang pa sang batan-on nga drayber.

Gapamati lamang si Olaw sa panambiton sang iya amay kag drayber, wala niya pa nahangpan kon ngaa nagabaratsi ang mga trak. Nalingaw siya sa pagtan-aw sang mga dalagko nga equipment nga naga-ayag sang mga bato kag lutak, kag padayon sa gihapon ang iya pagtulok sa malubog nga suba. Sa iya edad nga nuybe anyos, wala pa ini kahangop kon paano ginagama ang mina kag kon paano ini makabag-o sang kinaiya.

“Bati ko pa, Nong, magpalapad daw sila sang ila area pati didto sa inyo sa Sitio Kibul,” siling sang drayber.

“Oo, amo man gani ina ang i-transaction ko karon sa kapitolyo kon ngaa may titulo na sang duta namon si Governor Tan nga kami man ang nagapanguma sina panahon pa ni Tatay halin sang 1968,” esplikar sang mal-am bisan magahod ang wawaw sang habal sa maundag nga dalan.

“Oo, Nong, tama ina, halos abi sa aton mga duta diri sa Ned, indi pa titulado. Posible nga napabangonan ang mga duta ta diri sang titulo sang mga manggaranon nga pangayaw,” nagngulo-ngulo na lamang ang drayber nga isa man ka tumandok sang Sitio Kibul.

Sa ila tayuyon nga pagbaybay paadto sa banwa, tuman kasaku ang dalan, paadto-pakari ang mga dalagko nga dump truck sang probinsya sang South Cotabato kag Bulawan Mining Corporation. Halos tanan nga naga-agi sa ila kilid puno sang lupa kag dalagko nga bato. Magahod, masabad, kag daw nagpadugang sa kagin-ot sang tagiti sang adlaw.

Sa taas nga bahin sang pukatod, nakita ni Olaw ang madalom na nga kinutkutan sang bulldozer. Daw sa libtong na ini kalapad angay sang Mt. Melibengoy ukon Mt. Parker sa Tboli, South Cotabato. Madamo katama ang nakita niya nga salakyan kag heavy equipment. May diutay naman nga building nga ginatukod sa mataas nga bahin sang pukatod. Ini kuno ang tarambakan sang merkuryo nga ginagamit para masupot ang mga gagmay nga bahin sang bulawan sa bato, lutak, kag balas. Apang siling sang pagpanalawsaw, makaguba sang nervous system sang mga tao kag kasapatan ang amalgam nga halin sa merkuryo nga maglakot sa tubi kag kadutaan. Mangin ang mga heavy metals nga makaon sang mga isda, makadala man sang di-maayo nga epekto sa lawasnon nga kinamatarong.

Magahod ang inayagay sang lupa kag bato, kag may nilukpanay man sa dinamita sa idalom pa nga bahin sang buho. Ang sadto anay nga lasang nga balay sang mga dalagko anay nga Molave, Katmon, Talisay, kag Sablot nga sa Lake Sebu lamang ginapatubo, wala na. Inubos na ka pang-utod kag pangluk-ad para makakali lamang sa mga bulawan kag copper. Ang mataas sang-una nga pukatod, malapad na nga lutakon kon tig-tingulan kag tuman man kayab-okon kon tig-tinginit. Nahanaw naman ang mga bugnaw nga mga busay nga puluy-an sang bag-o natukiban nga species sang kagang nga diri lamang sa Lake Sebu, South Cotabato makita – ang Isolapotamon mindanaoense. Indi naman gani siguro makita ang mga amu sa kahoyan, kalaw, bukaw, baboy-talunon, kag iban pa nga kasapatan.

Magtatlo na ka bulan sang gintugutan sang Sangguniang Panlalawigan ang pinanday nga Environmental Code sang probinsya. Tuig 2010 pa sang una ginpapag-on ang layi pinaagi sa Ordinance No. 4. May mga probisyon nga ginbag-o ang konseho sa pagpatuman sang pag-usar sang kinaiya kag kalupaan sang probinsya para sa pagmina. Diri gindula ang mga small-scale mining kag gintugutan lamang ang MIM Gold Corp. sa Tampakan, South Cotabato kag sadto anay nga Tribal Mining Corporation sa T’boli, South Cotabato.

Sa pagbag-o sang administrasyon, halos sa mga miyembro subong sang sanggunian nagtugot sa pag-operar sang mina sa pipila nga kabukidan sang South Cotabato, kag mapatigayon ang pag-operar ang Bulawan Mining Corporation. Madako ang proyekto nga ini nga nagpromisa sang madamo nga obra kag proyekto para sa probinsya.

Tuman kadamo sang reklamo kag rally ang naagyan sang amo nga proyekto halin sa pagpangindi sang Diocese of Marbel, sang kaparian, mga alyansa sa simbahan, manunudlo kag environmentalists. Ini tanan wala nahangpan sang pipila nga miyembro sang tribu Tboli nga una maapektuhan sa pagpangali sang bulawan sa ila kinaiyahan. Nakita man sang iban nga pagtuon nga ang mga banwa sa idalom nga bahin sang probinsya ang dako nga maapektuhan kon hinali mabuhang ang buho sang mina.

Gintulok na lamang ni Nato ang daw libtong nga buho samtang nalingaw man ang iya subang sa pagsinumbali sang mga magahod nga makina sa bug-os nga Ned, Lake Sebu. Wala kahangop, ang ara lamang sa hunahuna sang bata ang makalilingaw nga equipment sa binuhuan sang mina.

(to be continued)


Alvin Larida is a teacher at Libertad National High School in Surallah, South Cotabato. He studied Education, majored in Chemistry and Physics at Notre Dame of Marbel University in Koronadal City. He finished his master’s degree in Science Teaching at Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He was the third prize winner of Malip-ot nga Sugilanon in South Cotabato (2019) and honorable mention during the Balay Sulat Sox: Play Writing competition (2021). He was awarded as third prize winner in Children’s Literature in Peter’s Prize 2021. Recently, he got honorable mention at Bantugan sa Panulatan Kinaray-a on his play

The Year of No Haircuts

Poetry by | June 7, 2022

You have crossed the border
of how many provinces,
traversing rivers and mountains
to mark a change
in belonging.
You have walked the line
of life and death
over cogon and under
a forest’s gloom.

In all that time
you have forgotten
to have your hair cut.
Now it has grown past your ears,
a curtain over
half of your face.

Your dreams, with enough time,
now flow past
your nape, cascading
down your shoulders.


Kiko Caramat was born in Makati City and only started living in Davao City this year. He plans to continue his studies in BA Creative Writing in UP Diliman after finishing his stint as a full-time volunteer for an NGO.