Bamboo Raft

Poetry by , | March 22, 2020

he owns the place. Daboy,
a child who only dreams
in a bamboo raft
that moves within a limited space
while the rope tightens the grip,
the ocean current wants
the bamboo raft to separate. like Daboy

who told me about living in the slums – their roof
allows the rain to penetrate the fragile floor where
they pile at night to sleep.
their food never changes – a monotonous menu
of instant noodles with its taste drowned
by an enormous amount of water,
and canned sardines with the help of the pressure from the fork
to make it look like
they never lacked something on their table.

if only Daboy knew Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,
and could speak a language afforded as a privilege,
he will surely scold at Maslow for his logic.
he would probably argue that life
isn’t a linear staircase; but, a spontaneous battle for space,
survival, freedom, and love. life is a labyrinth, instead.
its uncertain exits and entrances
will either turn you numb of the challenges
or force you to believe in the enduring hopes and dreams

just like Daboy sitting at his bamboo raft – his possession.
while allowing the chaos of the slum remains a backdrop,
he sits at the carefully woven bamboo poles, looking at the horizon
he can never touch.

he always wonders when
will the ocean stop scoffing
his bamboo raft that gradually loses its strength.
the salt from the ocean thins the bamboo poles,
and its current cracks the ropes. it’s becoming more vulnerable.

every day, Daboy becomes the bamboo raft.

Jupiter Cabig Jr. is a graduate of AB Psychology at Ateneo de Davao University with units in Sociology. He is the former editor-in-chief of Atenews, the official student publication of AdDU. He has a mixed-breed dog named Foucault.


Sang bangin

Poetry by | March 22, 2020

Dugay da ako wa too
sang ginoo na ag magtago sang mga panganod.
Sang dagat, yang langit na yahigugma sang tubig
yakita ng kanaan kaogalingon na yaboak.
Onan yang kanaan piyagahanap ngani haw doon?
Gapatoratoy siguro pagtuog yang ginoo sang sod
ng tiyan ng kadagatan. Yasayod ako san-e
kay yakita ako ng suga na yagkidlap-kidlap gikan
ubos. Ihuna-huna ko yang pag-indog sang kilid ng bangin.
Ibuhian ko yang hawid ng hangin. Ibuhian ko
yang pagkita. Yalapdos yang mga buhok sang kanak pisngi.
Yakorosob usahay yang mga bowa ng dagat.
Dugay da ako wa too sang kasakit.
Ampan misteryo na makapasabot ng kagool ng otaw
na ama isab ng yalahi sang iban pa
na gaginhawa na kinabuhi. Kung awon agaw ginoo,
kung yang ginoo kay yang dagat,
nasa kinahanglan pa naan mangatik na awon kapunaw-punawan?
Bahala da, awon kataposan sang madaig na butang.
Ihuna-huna ko yang pagbuka ng kanaan mga mata sang pinaka-una na higayon
sang kadaig ng yalabay na tuig. Ikita ko yang way kataposan na asul.
Ikita ko yang kalawom pero ikita ko isab yang kababaw.
Awon siguro kanak kiyalingawan, kiyamingawan,
doon na matignaw da yang kanak abaga.
Awon kaha yahawid san-e sang-awon?
Siguro kay tungod ipakyas ako ng kanak edad,
pero bata pa sa ako.
Kung awon agaw ginoo, basin yasayod pa yaan
ng mga kiyalingawan da na panumduman.
Pero dugay da ako wa too
sang ginoo na ag mamalandong,
usahay sang bangin sang taas ng bungtod
o sang yagkalahi-lahi na itom ng lawod,
piyagalumos yang kaogalingon. Kung ampan
gayod agaw ginoo, magpabilin yang kalibutan
na boak. Yagtagad yang mga batan-on na tatigowang
para lang malanta, para lang makalingaw ng gugma.
Onan kaha doon ngidtong yagda kanak ngani?
Dugay da ako wa too ng kinabuhi.

On a cliff

I no longer believe
in a god hiding behind clouds.
In the sea, the sky a lover of the water
sees itself fragmented.
What does it search, here and then?
God must be sleeping inside
the womb of the ocean. I knew this
as I have seen light sparkle from down
below. I imagine standing at a cliff’s edge.
I let go of the wind’s touch. I let go
of sight. Hairs lapping to my cheeks.
Sea foams crashing occasionally.
I no longer believe in pain.
No mystery would explain human sadness
like it is different from any other
breathing life. If there is a god
and god is indeed the sea,
why does it need to fake horizon?
Regardless, ends exist in so many things.
I imagine opening eyes for the first time
in years. I see an endless blue.
I see depth but I also see shallowness.
I must be missing something
now that my shoulders are cold.
Has someone touched them before?
My age fails me one more time,
but I am still young.
If there is a god, maybe god knows
all memories forgotten.
But I no longer believe
in a god who contemplates,
either on a cliff high above
or within many shades of abyss
drowning itself. If indeed god
does not exist, the world remains
fragmented. Young people wait to be old
only to wither, only to forget love.
What is it, then, that brought me here?
I no longer believe in life.

Ian, 23, is currently doing his MA in Political Science at Central European University, Vienna and Budapest. His poems have recently appeared in New Contrast: The South African Literary Journal. He hails from his ethnic Mandayan hometown of Cateel, Davao Oriental.


Poetry by | March 15, 2020

He came in one morning

through an ajar window.
I should have kept him as my pet
and watch his carcass decay.
I should have cut off his wings

and frame them, adding

to my collection.
I should have burned him—
left him in ashes.
I should have caught him,
fed him to birds,
ended the chase in my favor.
But he knew well to keep his distance.
So he flew in all corners of my room,
sprayed his scent and warded me off
suddenly and without remorse. He just left

as he pleased. But on his way out

I noticed a flutter of hurt and uncertainty

in his blinking eyes.
I should have just warned him away.
When he left, he left trails of honeydew

on my pot of flowers. A reminder of our undoing.


Krizza Jan D. Ceniza is an undergeaduate studying AB Interdisciplinary Studies minor in Media and Business in the Ateneo de Davao University.

Secret Waters

Fiction by | March 15, 2020

I woke up to discover that the world has moved on. My family was gone and I was left behind with dust, dryness, and endless death. I have become the princess of a dead kingdom.

It was long since this planet has stopped moving, and that the sun stayed glued in its position in the sky. Its glare followed me like an accusing eye in the sky, shining down on me and these empty husks of trees in perpetual heat. The vistas were cracked and desolate like the skin of a dried insect in the arid dessert.

Days passed—or maybe eons or minutes—but I could not tell the difference. With the constant sun above, time was an illusion, like thought or memory. I have not slept since I woke up. I discovered I could no longer sleep. My dreams have fled me.

Mirages came and went with the heat. Running and stumbling, I would chase after them, but they would move away, teasing me with their promise of water. Eventually, I stopped running.

I discovered a puddle near a withered, gnarled tree. It was a dark silver circle—sparkling amidst the dryness of the land. I scooped some, the water clear and cool in my hand, then I drank it, savoring the liquid bliss. Suddenly I heard faint whispers coming from the waters’ dark surface. The whispers sound familiar to me as if I’ve heard them before? Is that my family? My mom promising me that they’ll see me soon? Wanting to hear more, I leaned closer, plunging my whole face into the water.

Beneath the water was a night sky—black with a scatter of flickering stars. Their lights beckoned me to come and I dived in, full body. I swam through its waters as if I was flying in the sky. I flipped and tumbled, weightless in my flight.

A school of winged fishes flew with me—glistering silver bodies glowing in the darkness. They guided me through the night and led me to my dreams. As I saw my dreams, it felt like coming home. My dreams held me like a lost lover.

I forgot the dry kingdom I had wandered on. I could not live on dry earth when my heart dreams to be with the stars. This is my home—the night, the stars, and the embrace of my lost dreams.

Ely Case Colao Jr. is a nurse from Davao City. He is heavily drawn to works of fantasy and horror by writers such as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Lemony Snicket. He hopes to someday publish a novel. 

Downsizing (Part 2)

Fiction by | March 8, 2020

Jacques begged her to stay, for them to try harder, for a chance to make it up to her. He apologized, even offered to quit his job though Sally knew that it was more for his sake than hers. It would have been easier for him to avoid this coworker altogether than to wrestle with the urge to act on his feelings just so he could come home to his wife with a clear conscience (or at least as clear as the conscience of any who had fallen out of love for their spouse).

Her Nanay cried on the phone when she told her. But why? What did you do? She needed to know where her own daughter could have possibly fallen short in the wife-hood for which she had carefully prepared her. You have to give him a chance, Sally! Your luck runs out after a certain age. You can never find one as good as Jacques! Marriage is about commitment, not bailing out at the first signs of trouble. It’s about trusting. Compromising. Forgiving, her mother said.

Sally was not sure where falling-in-love-with-someone-else-but-not-acting-on-it and self-preservation fit in her mother’s creed of marriage.

I left him, ‘Nay! I packed my bags! Sally wanted to scream back at her but bit her tongue, afraid of upsetting her mother even more. I told you so, her mother said, never trust other women around your husband. He’s a catch! Any girl would take every chance they can get to snag a white man, her mother said between sobs.

Their next-door neighbor, whom Sally had only befriended on account of a shared fence, concluded that it had to be their childlessness. Did you try to send orayer petitions to the nuns over at Pink Sisters? They work miracles for those hoping for a child, she said as she watched Sally stuff her boxes and bags on the back of a rented truck. Men stay when there are kids, she said.

Her friends had been less merciful when they learned about their separation. You should have beaten the shit out of that bitch, they said. You can never trust any woman these days. And, you could at least have kicked Jacques in the balls, Sally. That would have shown him to keep it in his pants.
Oh, but he did. At least he said he did.

And whose fault was it, really, that her husband fell for someone else? Her barren ovaries? Her modest sexual preferences or her aversion to contour makeup and lingerie? And suppose she changed to fit these ideals, would it have been enough for Jacques to love her again? To make love to her without imagining another? For him to really want to kiss her without wishing it were someone else he was kissing instead?

For the better part of the last three months, she oscillated between feeling angry and sad, trying and failing to find anyone or anything at which to direct her emotions. She had refused to talk to Jacques, and he had started coming home less frequently, taking more out-of-town assignments. And when he did come home, they played a game of hide-and-never-seek, always in rooms where the other was not. Once, they laid in bed sobbing quietly together, grieving the death they could not prevent.

Finally, a month ago she made her intentions known: she was moving out and needed two weeks alone at home to prepare for her leave. They sent the dog away to one of their friends and Jacques rented a transient unit to give her all the time and space she needed.

In those two weeks, Sally avoided sleeping on their bed, preferring instead the discomfort of the ratty couch in the living room. The old sofa had been kept for sentimentality, a piece of the old apartment from before they got married. They had watched countless movies there together, shared take-out food when she was too lazy to cook and made love on it during the happier seasons of their lives.

Jacques had insisted she keep the house. It was hers legally, after all. But how could she? Jacques was everywhere and all over. The paint stains on the bathroom tiles when he painted the shelves. The squeaky door hinges he had never gotten to greasing. The dent on the wall from when he moved the ottoman to the bedroom. She wondered whether Jacques would feel the same about living in the house without her, felt a twinge in her heart at the possibility he would not.

When she was packing her things, she spent more than two hours just staring at their clothes in their shared closet. Throughout their marital woes, Jacques had meticulously kept it neat; he folded and hung everything as he had always done on happier days. He had always been proud of how great he was in the art of folding clothes, a skill he had mastered from working part-time in a clothing store while in college. Their trousers and shirts looked like they belonged to a store window.

She scanned the length of their closet, avoiding the white box that laid at the bottom-left corner. In it was the white dress she had had made especially for their city-hall wedding and the restaurant-reception that followed. There were many happy tears that day, every single one in attendance overcome with joy that they had finally tied the knot. More than that, there was an air of relief – from her friends who thought they had taken too long, and especially from her mother who could now breathe easy knowing that her daughter no longer had to sell herself short by living with a man without the security of marriage; that though it was a “bargain wedding”, it was still a wedding nonetheless. Even the Mayor, an old friend of the family’s, expressed relief when he ordered Jacques to finally kiss his bride.

She took just a few pairs of jeans, some shirts, and all of her work clothes, and stuffed them in her duffel bags, leaving the souvenir shirts and winter jackets untouched. And yet, even without most of her things, the closet looked like it always had. As if everything that belonged to her was never part of it to begin with.

With her clothes already picked, Sally moved to the spare bedroom which they had turned into an office, intending to fill the cardboard box she had marked BOOKS.

Their tables stood next to each other, his tainted with overlapping wet rings and scratches, hers neat and organized with its color-coded folders and pens arranged in cups. They had shared many quiet nights here: engrossed in their respective paperwork or filling each other in on the things they had missed while they were apart, looking every bit content in each other’s presence. It was the image of picture-perfect coexistence. She wondered whether there had been signs of decay in there somewhere, micro-ruptures and subatomic holes that she should have seen.

She turned her attention to the two shelves lining the walls, both bursting with the books they had acquired together over the years. Some of the layers sagged under the weight of their contents.
It was impossible to know whose books are whose; everything was labeled Mathieu. Some had SAM for Sally Annabel Mathieu, but most were simply labeled by their shared last name; she and Jacques both had a penchant for desecrating books with their names and dogears. She ran her fingers on the spines of their paperback collection, feeling the creases from being read and reread.

Out from the corner of her eye peeked a hardbound book, its jacket missing, tucked under Jacques’ copy of a Madeleine Albright memoir.

Sally immediately recognized the book and grabbed it. It was a used copy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ she had bought at someone’s going away garage sale years and years ago. Before she had met Jacques. Before she became Sally Mathieu. And there on the first page, just under the neat longhand of its original owner, she recognized her own handwriting: Sally Anabel Gomez.

She bought the unillustrated, unabridged copy though she had read the Ladybug illustrated edition countless times as a kid. It was the only book from her old collection at home that she brought over when she moved in with Jacques.

That time seemed so long ago now. When Sally was just Sally, when she did not have to consider Jacques’ opinion on the particularities of things bought and discarded. When her name was just her own.

She took the book and packed it with her clothes, the labeled box left empty in the middle of the room.

The unbearable noontime heat snapped her out of her reverie, forcing her to stand up and turn the air conditioner on. She scanned the length of the apartment, arms akimbo, and decided that she had to start somewhere.

So, she grabbed a piece of rag from the package that laid on the sink, filled a basin with soapy water and proceeded to wipe the closet, gray from years of neglect and desolation. Clearly this part had been overlooked by the landlord who had promised to prepare the unit for her arrival. The water turned the color of mud as she wiped the shelves, dust bunnies dissolving into gunk and mush and sediments floating in the basin. Several rags and a couple of swipes later and out emerged a clean pale-yellow shade, inching closer to what she imagined was its original off-white paint. Better. Much better, she thought, smiling contentedly at her work.

A staccato of raps on the door broke the lull of the errand. When she opened, an official-looking man in grey polo-barong and black trousers greeted her.

“Mrs. Sally Mathieu?”

The identification card pinned on his lapel said he was from the embassy. Jacques’ lawyers. This must be the divorce papers.

Sally took the manila envelope from the messenger and tucked it under her left arm with one hand, and the man’s clipboard and pen with the other. On the dotted line under the label Received By, she signed, Sally Anabel M… then scratched the M with a single line, writing instead the familiar strokes of a name she had not used in years.

Sally Annabel Gomez.



Hannah Rae Villarba was born and raised in Digos City. She currently works from her home office in Davao City


Downsizing (Part 1)

Fiction by | March 1, 2020

The last ten years had come to this, with her crammed on the old sofa in a box of an “apartment,” her body aching in various points from having slept in odd positions and where the springs poked through the couch’s thinning faux leather cover. This dying piece of furniture and a couple of carton boxes plus two duffel bags were all that was left of her marriage to Jacques.

Ten years had come to this. Just this. Sally could have kept everything they’d acquired together. Jacques would not have put up a fight. She could have taken the imitation bone china that she dearly loved, bought four Christmases ago on a visit to Strasbourg. Or the luggage set they had bargained for less than a hundred Euros in a street market in Venice the summer after their wedding. Authentic leather. Better than Louis Vuitton, really, the seller had said, his accent thick like the many cups of ciocolatta calda they had shared on that trip. She could even have taken Levin, their overweight beagle mix who, she now realized, would not have fit in this new space anyway.

Sally stretched her arms, careful not to knock over the stack of boxes that stood precariously overhead; her eyes, sticky and sore from oversleeping, adjusted with difficulty to the harsh midday sun that seeped in through the only two windows of the apartment in one of the many obscure little alleyways snaking through Uyanguren.

She gave her new home a sweeping look, examining the water stains on the ceiling and the imprints of dried up adhesives on the wall, feeling alien and gigantic in this tiny space. It is no wider than the full length of Jacques’ arm span; in its entirety it amounted to just a little over the size of their conjugal bedroom. Not that the house she had shared with her almost ex-husband was big – it was a humble two-bedroom bungalow in Ulas that they had moved into right after their wedding. It’s just that this room was small. The couch would have to go if she ever wanted a bed.

On one corner was a plain, industrial-looking aluminum sink with two floating cupboards above and two underneath, and next to it the door leading to the toilet and bath so small there was no point buying a shower curtain. On the other end of the apartment was a small built-in cabinet with a few layers of shelves on one side and a narrow space for hangers on the other; at the bottom a lone, boxy drawer with a missing handle. The closet left barely enough space for the door to open fully.

And on what little space she had left on the floor was her assortment of odds and ends, boxed and bagged remnants of her recently ended marriage. It had been days since she moved in. Her luggage was still strewn on the floor in various stages of disarray; next to it the heap of her used clothes, exposing the haphazard abandon with which they were tossed. There were a million things to be done – the cupboards were empty, the closet dirty, and she did not have a working internet connection. She needed to get some pans, maybe find a bed and some real pillows to replace the neck pillow she’d been using, buy a refrigerator that would fit, change her digital passwords and get her own bank account – things that a couple of years ago had excited her so as a young girl fresh out of college. She had felt like a true adult for the very first time then, going through the aisles of the home needs section of the old NCCC not far from where she now lived, carefully calculating and stretching what her first job’s salary could get for her first apartment. Doing these things filled her with dread now, imagining what people must think of a nearly middle-aged woman buying cutlery and tableware for one and the smallest rice cooker on sale, filling a house that was not even a house. She dreaded it so that she had settled only for whatever the supermarket offered her by way of home trappings, leaving the rest for when she had gathered enough confidence or need, whichever came first.

He had insisted that there was never an affair; that he never even touched her beyond polite handshakes and friendly hugs. This, even when they had spent many out-of-town trips to the South, and late nights together at work. He had described her only as a friend, a new colleague at the firm where he worked as a consultant for an international NGO. Yet, no matter how generic and harmless his descriptions of her were, there was no denying the twinkle in his eyes when he spoke of her, betraying the smile that his mouth had managed to conceal.

And then there was the silence and his inability to look her in the eye when Sally had finally summoned enough courage to ask him if he loved this woman. That was all she needed to see.

You should have tried harder to keep him, she was told. Should have been more adventurous in bed. That’s what white men love. As if coital acrobatics were all that was needed to secure a marriage’s success.

Maybe you’d let yourself go – foreigners get bored with plain wives, they said. You should have shown him you’re fun and liberated, wore more revealing clothes. It’s always the losyang ones who get jilted. And yet in the same breath they also said, but did you cook him great meals? The way to a man’s heart, you know. They choose Pinays because we are traditional and domesticated.
“Like submissive lap dogs?” she had wanted to ask.

Did you fight for him, tell him you’d love him better if he picked you? Did you even give him a chance to choose? He would surely have picked you, he is too decent not to!

And yet, they also said, Sally, you’re so lucky you can actually divorce him. Getting annulled in this country is its own circle of hell.

“Lucky. Yes, I must be lucky,” she thought.

Did you try therapy? They pried some more.

They did. They spent thousands of pesos on couples’ therapy sessions. Sex heals, the therapist had said. Try it when you’re ready. She was just short of telling Sally to fuck her husband back to loyalty.

Still, they tried. She and Jacques had spent one long evening in the middle of those tumultuous months, lying side by side in bed, hands just close enough to feel the other person, before Jacques made a move on her. He touched her, his long, bony fingers gently sliding along her forearm. Up and down. Up and down.

And then they kissed, first in small reluctant pecks on the shoulder, the neck, then on the mouth, like two teenagers exploring the act for the very first time in their lives, seeking and calculating before succumbing to ones of more animal greed, of tongue against tongue and skin and hair.

Then Jacques stopped and sobbed. His body shook as he clung on to Sally, his fingers gripping her bare clavicle. Sally laid there under Jacques’ clutch, half-naked and motionless, fat tears rolling down her face in full recognition of this finality.

To be continued…


Hannah Rae Villarba was born and raised in Digos City. She currently works from her home office in Davao City.

Inside the library reading Camille Rankine

Poetry by | February 23, 2020

Sunlight creases through my face.
I look at it, robbing myself of sight,
Loving blindness.

One more time, day ends.
One more time, I’m still a day alive.
And I breathe, thank god.

But not of fresh air.
The rooftop now is chilly. Bodies
can’t be sunning in winter.

Inside the library, books eat me.
I know they will outlive me.
But now I will outlive the sun.

In summer, my black hair
Becomes the golden rays of the world.
And the sun will already sleep

to gain strength in the coming months.
I let it crease my lips, sip my own
youth – whatever it wants

before it leaves. I refuse to refuse.
Books eat me and yet no knowledge
knows all of me. Maybe only the sun.

And maybe the sky. Whatever I want
they still can’t give, as books too.
Maybe someday I want to fly

or sleep inside the Danube. Maybe
I will write stories, still mind babbles.
Maybe I would outlive myself,

in the form of dying, as I become
a book, a paper, a word. Maybe the sun
would remain bright, even if evenings

rob me of sanity. Maybe I would dream
tonight of losing sight – I would dig
my own eyes and then face the sun.


Ian is an overseas Filipino student. He misses home.


Poetry by | February 23, 2020

Gatuya – tuya ang bangka sa naga lumpat nga indak sa balod,
Kauban ang tugtog sa gadumbol nga habagat sa kiliran.

Sama sa kakiat sa mga gasalom nga isda,
Padayon kining nakigbisog sa tubig sa wa mailhing dagan.

Samtang gasakay, gahangad ang ulo sa kawanangan,
Mata galurat sa mga gasidlak – sidlak nga mga bituon nga nakigtigi sa kahayag sa dakbayan.

Sa imong pagpangisda sa buntag, na murag pagpanghabol nimo sa akong nipis nga lawas
Inig kagabii, dagat ang habol mong gagakos sa akong gitugnaw nga kasing – kasing.

Pa? bangka pod diay kong dili makab – ot ang imong panganod.
Ang imong gugma.

Ang kahumot nalang sa zonrox nga nikapyot sa imong kamot
Ang magpabilin nga baho nga pangitaon sa akong ilong sa matag kabuntagon.

Tingog mong gadahunog sama sa kampana sa San Pedro
Ang mudu – aw sa akong dunggan sa unsa ko nimo patulugon matag udto.

Naglaroy – laroy akong huna – huna sa imong dagway
Busa ang kabuluyagun sa gahuyop nga habagat

Ang nisagpa kanako arun halukan ang samarang adlaw.
Dili nako mapasanginlan ang inosenteng sulog sa dagat.

Busa, kabalo kang mubalik ko kung asa una nakit – an nato ang matag usa.


Ivan Ridge Arbizo is a grade 12 student from Davao City National High School.