I left Nabunturan for a city

Poetry by | October 18, 2021

who does not want me.
The city was a three-hour bus ride
away. The pens, notebooks, and two handfuls of clothes
felt like rocks in my backpack, anchoring me
to my seat. At the city’s terminal,
I had to use all my strength to move. The city
never stopped moving. It never learned to shut up.

I left Nabunturan for a city who does not want me.
I sat on my bed that night, whispering
against the dust on the sheets. The dust—a gift
from the previous boarder, the Engineering student
who had left the fields his father had tilled
in exchange for the city’s comfort.
This city had tricked us. We thought
we were coming home.

I left Nabunturan for a city who does not want me.
My Nabunturan, I chose this city
because my passion lies beneath the battered pillars
of a university who taught me nothing but to miss you.

Now, I am writing this amidst the noise of the jeepneys
in front of Bankerohan bridge, where constructions
of buildings spurt like mushrooms only to be abandoned.
I write this while inhaling scent of the river
and the garbage beneath it. But I am not bothered
at how the scent tugged at my nostrils. In this city,
I am an orphan. I wander the streets in search of things
to write about, finding comfort in the poems the city
has taught me to create. But in Nabunturan,

my Nabunturan, with you I am a child
breathlessly running to see his mother
when he returns home after school:
shoes muddied, hair drenched in sweat,
skin that bore the sun’s kisses. Tell me, again,

why I left.

Ruben Tabalina was born and raised in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley. He is currently a 4th Year student from the University of Southeastern Philippines taking up a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Cultural Studies. He’s a boy in a dress who is born to impress.

Kapeng Barako

Poetry by | October 18, 2021

Giangkon sa nagbilangkad nga lingkoranan
ang akong kabug-aton, ug gihawoy
akong laway og kinapyot
sa gahanggab nga ngabil samtang nalipong
ang kutsarita og tinuyok sa tasa, gilumpag
ang nagtibugol nga kape gikan gilapwaan.

Usahay, mangurog akong dila ug magdilaab
akong alimpatakan… Tungod kaya ni
sa pag-uyon nako sa timpla sa imong tingog
dihang miingon ka kanako, “Magkape ra ta.”

Unsa kaha kon kutawon sa imong dila
ang akong baba, o di ba kaha higopon nimo
ang katam-is sa akong pangandoy?
Bisan sama ra sa aso ang hunahuna,
mabati ko gihapon ang kainit.
Ang kahapdos. Ang kasakit.

Ug wala ko makabalo kon
kanus-a malamian og balik.

Ivan lives in Davao City.

My Mother’s Perfume

Poetry by | October 18, 2021

Wearing a daisy-printed
lilac blouse,
she pranced
around the house
one last time.

Had I known it was the last,
I wished I breathed it all in:

how she smelled like mint
and fresh green herbs,
and tropical fruit
amidst the scent of rain,

and how she smelled like the dying sun
in the afternoon,
a fresh pandesal
in a pugon.

Now, she smelled like lighted candles,
embraced with formaldehyde,
flickering for the ones
left behind.

She smelled like burnt rice coffee,
and patchouli,
and moments—
extended into eternity.

Ruben Tabalina was born and raised in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley. He is currently a 4th Year student from the University of Southeastern Philippines taking up a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Cultural Studies. He’s a boy in a dress who is born to impress.

Karaang Pantalon

Poetry by | October 18, 2021

Gisuong sa akong mga tiil
ang mga langob sa laspag
nga maong. Kada suksok,
magka-anam sab ang kaguot,
magtapok, magpunsisok
ang kahapdos sa unod –
dili kalusot ibabaw sa tuhod.

Naanad ko nga sul-ubon
kining pantalon: ang panap –
tong inampingan gikan gipalit,
hinatag sa akong inahan.

Timaan nga dili nako pugson
og sulod kining mga tikang
sa paghandum arun dili manga –
tangkas ang kagahapon nga
magpabilin taliwala sa kaguot
sa akong gibati human siya
misuong apan wa na kabalik

Ivan lives in Davao City.

CALL FOR ENTRIES | The 5th Satur P. Apoyon Tigi sa Mubong Sugilanong Binisaya

Editor's Note | October 11, 2021

The Davao Writers Guild is now accepting entries to the 5th Satur P. Apoyon Tigi sa Mubong Sugilanong Binisaya.

Named after renowned journalist, writer, and former Davao Writers Guild president Satur P. Apoyon, the contest welcomes short fiction in Binisaya by Mindanao-based writers. Works will be judged according to their command of language, writing technique, relevance to contemporary society and culture, and originality of vision.

Three winners will be announced in February 2022 in time for the National Arts Month celebration. The first prize winner will receive P5,000.00, while the second and third prize winners will receive P3,000.00 and P2,000.00, respectively.

To be considered, applicants should submit one (1) short story written in Binisaya. An applicant is only allowed one (1) entry. An entry should be double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g. 1 of 20, 2 of 20, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be either Palatino or Garamond, with font size 12. An entry should not exceed thirty (30) pages. The author’s name should not appear on the entry.

Entries should be accompanied by 1) an accomplished Application Form and 2) a signed Certificate of Originality of Work.

Both the entry and the Certificate of Originality of Work should be attached as PDF documents in an email to saturapoyontigi.dwg@gmail.com, with subject line “Entry to Satur Apoyon Contest”.

All requirements must be complete at the time of submission. Failure to comply with these instructions will automatically disqualify the entry.

Deadline of entries is on 30 December 2021.  For further inquiries, please send an email to saturapoyontigi.dwg@gmail.com.

How He Responds (Part 2)

Nonfiction by | October 11, 2021

III. Ayaw paghilak kay makahilak pud ko.

After my mother left, I swore to make Papa happy. Maybe not as happy as he would have been when we were still complete. But proud and happy of the pieces of our family left with him. I promised myself I would never be the reason for his tears.

I knew Papa never loved the idea of me enrolling to a Special Program in my Junior High School. I was 13 years old that time and it was already three years since my mother left us and I thought making him proud with academic achievements was the best way for me to cope.  But Papa didn’t want me to pressure myself. He had always wanted me to enjoy my life without academic responsibilities or burden. He wanted me to have a “normal life.” And it took me a few years to realize that I, my family, was not meant to have one.

Although I knew him as a quiet man, Papa talked more over the years. Most often about my mother. Whether it was through text or over merienda in his payag whenever I visited him after school, I would shiver at how angry his voice sounded.

Unsa imong gusto, ipa-taurpalin ko nang dagway sa imohang mama kauban iyang lalake?

Do you want me to print a tarpaulin of your mother flexing her lover?

He told me this on one of the days I went straight to his payag after training for a writing competition. I was tired that day, both from my training and from dealing with this “not normal” but “not extraordinary” family. Hearing him say those words made me feel more drained. Even when those words were true, that my mother left us for another man, I never wanted to hear those things from Papa. I was convinced that she will always be my mother regardless of everything.

At that moment I tried to think of an appropriate response for what he said. Should I agree? Should I tell him not to talk about mother that way? So I just bowed my head until my eyes gave out. I cried in silence, as I had always done in the nights where I didn’t get to sleep next to Papa or next to my mother, or even next to both.   Crying in silence was not enough for all the things I felt at that time, so I sobbed without daring to look at him.

While I cried, I thought about my mother. Where was she now that her little girl is crying? Should I still call her “mama”? What should I refer to her then? It was funny how kirida and mistress became names for women who have affairs with married men. But how about a single word for widowed men who steal wives from their respective home? Was there any word that could describe how painful it is to the husbands and children to see their wives and mothers lighting up somebody else’s tahanan?

But then Papa did something unexpected, he hugged me. I stopped crying almost immediately out of shock. I could feel his dry and chapped skin against my arms, and I could smell the sweat on his faded blue loose t-shirt with little holes and ripped hem. He must have worked the whole day here in the store, I thought. And here I was adding more stress to his already tiring day.

“Anak,  sorry na. Ayaw pag hilak kay makahilak pud ko,” Papa said in a voice so soft I almost didn’t hear him. Papa was not a fan of hugs or physical affection, but this hug was not the biggest shock to me. It dawned on me that no matter how sad he was about losing my mother to another man, what pained him more was seeing me lose myself in all the stress and hurt I had been feeling.

So I hugged him back in silence. The most comforting silence we had ever shared.


There were those times in my life where I have wondered a lot about my father’s behavior. Is it true that he is psychologically incapacitate, like what the annulment papers say? He could have hurt my mother. He could have left us before my mother did. But why does he always remain calm even when it hurts? How does he manage to choose peace most especially when his whole family is hurting? Papa always knew better. He knew just how to respond to how I feel, to how my mother left, and to how he could keep this family “normal.”

I knew I had to stop taking note on how he handles every situation. It was time to show him the aftermath of his responses.

IV. Nakauli na ka?

“Papa, 3rd place ko!” I called him, crying. I won 3rd Place at a SciTech Writing competition when I was in Grade 10 and about to graduate from my Special Program.

He was silent at first and I didn’t really expect any reply. Letting him know that his little girl achieved something was surely enough for me to be proud of. I was still at school that time, fixing my things in our publication office. My fellow campus journalists who also won in their different categories invited me to celebrate with them in the sugbahan in Torres, just in front of our school.

“Congrats anak, proud kaayo ko sa imo,” he finally said. I heard his voice crack on the other line. He was crying.

I cried harder. My tears were not from my achievements, but it was from the tears I heard from him. No award could equal to the satisfaction I felt. It was as if I was a child again being given all the gifts she had asked from all her relatives on Christmas. I could not ask for more.

His payag was just a five-minute walk from school, so I started to walk home. When Papa asked if I had told my mother about my win, I mumbled a yes.

Ever since I was a child, and years later when I won in writing competitions or in other school events, my mother would just reply with a simple “Congrats.” Now that she knew how to use Messenger, she would send a large thumbs up emoticon. But Papa’s bragging of our, me and my brother’s, achievements would not end there. He would spend weeks telling his friends about how I placed 1st at writing competitions and how my brother had a published article at the University of Mindanao. He never seemed to have few words when he talked about us—his family.

When Papa noticed I was not talking on the other line, he asked me what he always asked before he would end a phone call or a text conversation: Nakauli naka? Are you home?

Home. I lived in different houses because of my parents’ separation. I was already used to not going home to the same house I had slept a night before. Back then, Papa would ask me to stay with him in Catitipan, then I would come home to my brother in Ubalde the following day, but most of the time I stayed with my late grandparents. Regardless of that setup, I always knew that I was welcome in his place.

Papa was never perfect. He had his lapses and limitations. He had his share of bad times and breakdowns. But he always knew what to do. He always knew how to respond.

So when he asked that question whether I arrived home or not, I found myself just a couple of steps away from his little sari-sari store. When he saw me by the small bamboo fence, he rushed to me immediately and we shared a hug. He didn’t even wait for my response, but I was always glad for his.

“Yes, Pa. Nakauli nako.” I’m home. Pa.

Reggie Faye is from Los Amigos, Tugbok, Davao City. She is a freshman from University of the Philippines – Mindanao, under the degree program Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing). She graduated from Davao City National High School, where she took up the Special Program in Journalism during her Junior High School and the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) strand in her Senior High School.

How He Responds (Part 1)

Nonfiction by | October 4, 2021

My father doesn’t talk much. And when he does, he only replies. I gather those replies growing up, thinking this was how he shows me he cares for me—a sort of reciprocity for the things I say to him.

I. I-text ko kung nakauli naka.

Ever since I was 10, I didn’t live with Papa and Mama anymore. He had to move out after their separation where he lived at Catitipan, and I stayed with my late grandparents at Lanang. And though I lived far away from him, I was always comforted with the thought that every time I told him I was leaving, he would reply with this gentle reminder: let me know when you’re home.

His hidden payag and sari-sari store has been Papa’s source of income for more than a decade now. At an early age, I learned the names of the popular network providers, Smart, TalkNText, Globe, TM, and Sun, before I even memorized the multiplication table. In honor of his two children, he named the store after my older brother and I: Leboi and Pipai’s Store. His store has been a tambayan to some and a home for the many, especially among those who work in call centers and stores along Torres and V. Mapa.


On the day of his 46th birthday, when I was on my way to a small room my brother and I shared at Garcia Heights, the rain started pouring. The noise of the raindrops on the trapal roof of tricycles made me think of how heavy rains scared me when I was young. Not because of the deafening thunder but my father’s voice.  What scared me the most is how he would respond to what those rainy days brought – flood. When the water would begin to gather outside our store, he would curse merciless private vehicles who would pass on the road in front of us causing flood water to splash towards our direction. I was too scared of his loud voice to realize that after he had cursed the cars, he would always ask me if my brother and I were safe.

Papa would scratch the back of his head while looking at the lower surface of the tindahan turning into soft mud from hard soil. He would start ranting about how he was going to clean his store the following day: picking up pieces of trash buried in mud, washing the mud stains off of the wooden chair, enduring the muddy floor that buried his feet in every step. As a child, I had to listen to all of those, not knowing how to help him with anything. Up to this moment, I am still clueless on how I should have responded: both to how the flood thrashes our store and to how Papa felt helpless in fixing the store—the home he built for us.


Growing up, while I watched Papa absorbed all the dust, street noises, heat of the sun, and other people’s criticisms while he was starting to build his sari-sari store, I also watched Mama build her whole career. Back then, she worked as a General Secretary of a famous insurance company. I remember entering her office, feeling like it was a mall during Christmas season: everything was white, sparkling, and jolly. My voice would echo from calling my brother across the table. Their pantry never ran out of food – jelly ace, Oishi Prawn Crackers, Moby, viands, and a lot more; their chairs have wheels, they have unlimited hand sanitizer with the dispenser against the wall that appeared to be so high for a 7-year-old.

While my father had to scrape mud from the old wood which he would use to build the little payag, my mother never had to scrub the floors of their office since it was mopped by a janitor every day.  These are the places where they spend 8-10 hours of their lives, working. And us? We waited for them to come home.

I never saw any one of them less just because of what they do. I love them both equally, but I feared Papa more. He is silent most of the time, not because he wants to remain that way, but because he was used to not having anyone to talk to. Papa grew up with his grandparents where the household considers talking about what they feel as a crime. Nonetheless, he made sure that my brother and I were always heard. And I was always thankful for that.


II. Naa man lagi mo diri?

Ever since my mother left us for another man, the man he met in her clean and white office, Papa always asked us why we were there in the payag with him, and not with Mama.

After he found out about my mother’s infidelity, he chose to stay in the payag with my brother and me. Coming from a broken family, he did not want us to experience what he had gone through. When my mother left us, I was just nine and my brother was 11. Old enough to come home from school by ourselves, but young enough to decide where to celebrate the holidays.

While we still stayed together in the payag, Mama would intentionally go out of the room and sit under the coconut tree outside the house. She would be found giggling at her phone with the man on the other line. I knew my mother was already too deeply in love with that man to make her remember that this little family existed. Her little family existed.

Afraid that he might not take it and might end up hurting her, Papa left. The memory of him packing his clothes while Wency Cornejo’s Hanggang played in the background is still clear to me. It was the last time I have seen them together in the same room.

Reggie Faye is from Los Amigos, Tugbok, Davao City. She is a freshman from University of the Philippines – Mindanao, under the degree program Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing). She graduated from Davao City National High School, where she took up the Special Program in Journalism during her Junior High School and the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) strand in her Senior High School.


Poetry by | September 27, 2021

Gimingaw hinuon ko makadungog
aning kusog nga katawa,
maklaro na tingali lagos nga puwa
sa gamay’ng bata nga wa nagkandimao
ang singot ug sip-on sa ilahang dula.
Sa luyo sab makita ang ilang ginikanan
nga nag-uma ug kaning tiguwang na babayi
nga nangguna samtang kanunayong miamin
iyahang apo sa tuhod ug usa ka laki
nga nagkaon nagsuwa og tinapa.

Halap man kani, naay uban nga napanas na dinhi
ang kalipay migikan sa ginagmay’ng butang
anaa may mawala ukon mobalik
ang kinaiya gikan pa sa una
nagpabilin sa karaang hulagway
gipilit duol sa bintana nila Lola Dulor
masayran sa iyahang mata samtang gisaysay
ang kalahi sa kaniadto ug karon nga katawa.


Mary Divine Escleto hails from Alabel, Sarangani Province. She participated in  the 1st SOX Summer Writing Camp and Davao Writers Workshop in 2019. She is  a member of Writear’s Sheet, Sigaw Heneral and Sarangani Writers League.