Liham ng isang Gen Z

Poetry by | October 3, 2022

Para sa mga kagaya ko,

Kumusta ka?

Naaalala mo nong mga panahong wala ka pang ibang pinoproblema
kundi kung paano ka tatakbo sa tuwing hahabulin ka ng pamalo ni mama?
Nong mga panahong pinipilit mong magtulog-tulugan sa tanghali
para hindi ka mapagalitan? Yong tatawagin ka ng mga kaibigan mo,
maglalaro kayo ng habul-habulan o tagu-taguan,
tapos pag ikaw na yong taya bigla mong sasabihin na pagod ka na.
Haggang sa bigla na lang kayong mag-aaway, popostura ka na parang ninja –
“Ano ha?! Ano?! Sigee! Sigee!!!” –
pero yong suntukan niyo tila di naman matuloy-tuloy.

Eh, nong muntik mo nang talunin si Cardo Dalisay sa baril-barilan? –
gamit yong sandata mong gawa sa puno ng saging.
Nong mga panahong uso pa ang tirador at jolen;
may papikit-pikit ka pa, eh hindi ka rin naman nakakaasinta!
Minsan, namumula na rin yong mga palad mo sa kahahampas sa sahig
para gumalaw yong goma sa larong dampa –
may iba’t ibang teknik ka pa nga ata kung paano
lumikha ng hangin gamit ang kamay –
ikaw ang tunay na unang airbender!
Minsan naman aakyat kayo sa puno, kasi sumabit yong pinapalipad
niyong saranggola; di ka pa nakontento ginagawa mo pang duyan yong sanga!
Masaya rin yong tila maubusan ka na ng hininga habang
tumatakbo at sumisigaw ng, “Shhattonngggggggg!”

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Ang Pikas Aping sa Corona

Poetry by | October 3, 2022

I.
mingaw ang kadalanan
sulbad ang problema sa trapik sulod sa usa ka bulan
nakapahulay ang mga panganod
og tigom sa carbon dioxide-sa iyang paghilak, sa iyang pagbakho
nabanhaw ang mga patayng bituon
nabanhaw human ang liboang tuyok sa bulan
oh, dihay mga bag-ong bituon sa langit!
maayo na lang, tin-aw ang kalangitan.
unyang gabii, paaboton ko ang pagsubang sa di maihap nga kabituonan.

Continue reading Ang Pikas Aping sa Corona

Apong Cora

Fiction by | October 3, 2022

The nutty aroma of dark coffee filled the air as I brushed aside the curtain that acted as our door. When I stepped outside, I heard the cry of roosters in the distance. Beneath the wooden roof, my grandmother was weaving. Every day, she would wake up at 5 am to feed the chickens and then weave in the shade of the nipa hut.

“Good morning, Nina,” Apong Cora said. She removed her feet from the treadles of the wooden apparatus and offered her hand. I walked briskly towards her, took her hand, and pressed my forehead against it to show respect. “Sit there,” she said while pointing at a white plastic chair in the corner. I sat and played on my phone.

The small nipa hut, with its four acacia columns, had no walls. My grandfather, Toribio, built it in the 1950s as a gift to Apong Cora. She grew up with the tradition of weaving in Ilocos and, after moving here to Maitum, had my grandfather build the handloom.

Continue reading Apong Cora

Notes on Distance

Poetry by | September 26, 2022

I.

I promised myself not to write about you
not to cage you in metaphor
not to staple you on paper
not to say the word
promise, without keeping it

But here I am:
bleeding ink until it dries
bringing sunlight into this room
borrowing words until they lose their
meaning, I run my pen in endless circles.

II.

And just as I plunge myself into the depths of thought, I hear your voice again. I find myself holding on to your intonation, your stutters in between, and the cadence that fades into silence.

III.

I wish I could keep you like a present, like what photograph is to memory:

The last glimpse of a sunset.
Landmarks and mementos, souvenirs.
The clearing on a mountain peak.
Plating before consumption.
The six-petaled santan before it wilts.
One last glimpse before I leave for Dumaguete.

On nights when the sky refuses to stop
crying, take this sweater and feel its embrace.

Take these words, and the spaces in between:
the weight of waiting, the price of a promise.

V.

The call ends, and I find myself staring at the ceiling.
Nights have been long with longing, cold like distance.

Perhaps if I stare at this screen a little longer,
the image in front of me becomes less of an image.

Perhaps if I hold this phone a little longer,
I could finally feel the warmth of your touch again.


Raphael Salise is currently taking his Juris Doctor degree at Silliman University, where he “tries” (emphasis supplied) to write poems in his free time.

Through a Spyglass Darkly

Nonfiction by | September 26, 2022

My father is a seafarer. For the most part of my childhood, I’ve only been able to see him once or twice a year, and only briefly. When I was told about his new job, the younger me had imagined that Daddy was going to be a pirate who will be setting off on a voyage to find treasure for me, thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and my overactive imagination. Having an OFW parent is never easy on a child nor the seafaring father. The first time he had to leave, I was crying oceans almost every night for weeks. “What if he gets eaten by an enormous sea monster?” I frequently thought to myself. I couldn’t imagine how hard it was for him too, having to celebrate his children’s birthdays in the middle of the ocean, having to send a birthday message in a bottle, and having to look at his children grow up through a spyglass.

Now that I’m older, I realize that there are bigger monsters to worry about. Before I took the UPCAT in 2019, he told me that UP is just another school, perhaps in an effort to alleviate the pressure I was under. I replied that no, it isn’t – to which he replied “Yes it is, useless people nga karamihan sila.” I immediately knew what he meant. He has always been antagonistic towards UP students, as he had repeatedly said how some students are “baliw,” on a couple different occasions. In the irony of it all, several months later, his own daughter would pass the UPCAT and be one of those “baliw” and “useless” students.

I couldn’t blame him for not knowing who his daughter is. How does one get to know a person when both are oceans away from each other? The high tides and trade winds won’t allow it. One time, he sent me a message asking why it seems as if I’m drifting away, why we weren’t as close as we were before. The easy way out was to put all the blame on the distance and the tides pushing and pulling, hence slowly separating us, but I know all too well that distance and ocean tides weren’t the ones to blame. I could have said, “Because you support Duterte and defend his misogyny,” or “Because you share posts on Facebook spreading misinformation about the OVP,” or “Because you think student activism is crazy and useless when your own daughter is a student activist, but of course you don’t know that,” but I couldn’t. All I could manage to say was how college life in UP had kept me too busy.

This year, my brother and I flew to Baguio City, our hometown, to spend time with Daddy as it was time for his ship to dock. I call Baguio my hometown not only because it’s where I was born, but also because I take pride in being Kankanaey Igorot. We usually only get a month with him at most, but this time he was here for a generous two months before he boarded a ship again and began another journey at sea.

“Biglang nag-blackout, tapos dumami bigla boto ni Leni,” my father declared at the dinner table, referring to the 2016 elections in which Leni Robredo won the seat for the vice presidency. It was only a couple of weeks away before the May 9 elections, and political family discussions during dinner were, well, inevitable. Leni is running again, this time for the presidency, and my grandmother was a Kakampink, just like the rest of the family except for Daddy. Every evening, as the whole family gathered for dinner, Lola would bring up Leni, to which my father would never fail to refute: “‘Di ‘yan mananalo.” I kept quiet. I’ve never been a fan of confrontation. I don’t want to rock the boat; I just want to enjoy my bowl of sinigang.

Days before the Leni-Kiko grand rally in Baguio City, Daddy saw the materials I had laid out on the floor to make a placard. I didn’t tell him ahead of time that I was going. The night before the rally, he went into my room and said, “Bukas na yung rally, ‘di ba? Ba’t ‘di mo pa ginagawa ang placard mo?” I was caught off guard. Why was he encouraging the behavior he once said was useless? The following day, he offered to drive me and my brother to the venue. He also came back to pick us up after the event. We didn’t talk much about it, just a few questions on how it went and how we were.

Three days later, it was our flight back to Davao City – where my mother, younger brother, and I moved fifteen years ago when my parents separated – and Daddy was also going back to work and boarding a ship again soon. As I was packing my bags the evening before the flight, he saw the pink placard I had used for the rally, folded and slightly crumpled on the floor. “Hindi mo iyan iuuwi? Sayang, pwede mo ‘yan ipa-frame, remembrance,” he told me. I was stunned. It could have been a sarcastic remark, but I know that my father is a good man and he wouldn’t mock me like that. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just let out a little laugh.

I did bring the placard home to Davao, but not so I could frame it as a remembrance like he said. It might just be a piece of paper, but I choose to see it as the treasure Daddy had voyaged for many years ago across the ocean to find and bring to me. He needed to set sail all those years ago and he knew the younger me wouldn’t have fully understood why he had to do what he did. Even if he might not fully understand who I am and why I do what I do, it is more than enough for me that he sees me. Maybe he actually knows me, maybe he still doesn’t and just chooses to support me in whatever I do, who knows? The coast is far from clear, but he tries.

“Sa radikal na pagmamahal,” one side of my placard read. On the other side, I wrote “Pag- asa ay iiral.” With the loss of Leni and Kiko, and the seeming triumph of misinformation and historical revisionism, many of us don’t understand what went wrong. But I still continue to believe that the fight for the Filipino people to be seen and heard is far from over. These are difficult times for the Philippines, but we will keep trying.

***

Vida Sachi Daliling studies communication and media arts at the University of the Philippines Mindanao.

Mama’s Apo

Fiction by | September 18, 2022

Since I came home to Davao for the holidays, Trixie and I have had this ritual of afternoon walks along Mama’s front yard. Trixie’s chocolate point fur and icy blue eyes seem to catch our neighbor’s attention, especially the children. It is an understatement to say that she easily became the darling of the crowd in the subdivision where my mother lives.

But she is more special to Mama’s eyes than any of her pets at home.

She has easily become her baby in a span of weeks since we arrived from Manila. She probably knows that the woman feeding her is my mother. Maybe, cats can smell that too, just like how they know their own kittens by their scent. Mama refuses to give her any dry cat food. She believes it’s harmful for the cat’s kidneys. Instead, she mashes some boiled squash and minces chicken meat for Trixie.

“You used to like this when you were a baby, Raymond,” Mama recalls while she blows the newly boiled squash. “I also used to mash sweet potatoes when squashes were expensive. They were your favorite too!”

Since then, the two have become inseparable. Most afternoons, Trixie keeps her company in her bed having siesta. And at night, she is Mama’s TV buddy while watching her favorite Ang Probinsyano for another episode of Cardo overcoming another near-death experience. Maybe, Cardo was a cat in his past life too.

For a 28-year-old man like me, I have countlessly used Trixie as my response for the undying question thrown at me in family gatherings: “kailan ka magkakapamilya?” Doesn’t family come in all shapes and forms? But how can I tell that to an elderly aunt or uncle stuck with an antiquated idea of what a family is? So, I seldom join family gatherings to save me from lengthy unsolicited advice of having to raise another human being in a country where living costs tons of money none of them are willing to pay anyway. Besides, that is just the tip of the iceberg. They don’t know Mama’s only son is gay.

“You never really liked cats when you were young, Raymond. I know you strayed Mingming away when you were 13 because you didn’t like it taking cat naps on your favorite shirts in the closet,” she says, breaking the afternoon silence while holding Trixie’s leash in one of our afternoon walks.

“What a terrible liar I was! Sorry Ma!” I laugh.

The sunset bleeds the sky orange. Davao’s horizon is kinder than the concrete jungle in Manila, where looking up to the sky is a luxury to do. In Manila, every second counts for a cog in a machine, but here in Davao, time breaths. Mama’s face is glowing, being hit by the gentle sunlight. Her wrinkles growing visible; her smile radiating.

Uy, Trixie not those!” she giggles as she carries Trixie away from chewing the snake plant near the gate.

I grab the cage and let Trixie in. Her blue eyes are begging for me to set her free.

Bukas na naman tayo labas. Mama’s plants are precious, Trixie. You shouldn’t be eating those,” I promise her while handing some cat treats in her bowl.

“Your father was the one who loved plants,” Mama says while cutting the plant’s edge where Trixie bit. “When he was courting me, he never gave me a bouquet of flowers. For him, it was foolish to kill a plant just to show affection. So, he gave me a pot of succulents instead,” she also reveals that Papa was the one propagating the succulents he gave to her.

“Your father changed me, Raymond. Well, love did,” she chuckles, hiding the tone of nostalgia in her voice. “And having these plants around reminds me of him even if he’s gone,” she adds.

“I miss him too, Ma.” 

Papa was one of the doctors in Davao who contracted and succumbed to Covid when the pandemic ravaged the country in April 2020. Although it has been two years since his death, there was never a day I regretted not coming back home to grieve with Mama. Flying back to Davao was impossible then. All flights were canceled. The pandemic robbed me the chance to finally say to my father who I am. So now, I will not let it slip away. 

The dusk settles in. The lamppost in the village starts to light up the street.

“I know what we’ll have for dinner. Spaghetti! Your favorite!” Mama announces, lightening up the mood, and rushes to the kitchen.

Si Rick, Ma.”

My voice halts Mama from walking any further. She turns and looks at me.

Si Rick. He gave Trixie to me as a gift,” I confess.

Anak nga kita. Nagmana ka nga sa akin,” she teases and hugs me. She sits on the couch with me.

She later knew that Rick and I have been together for almost a year now, and I have been meaning to tell her all along. She also knew that I met Rick in the same company I’m working in Manila. And he will be coming over for the holidays to meet Mama, too.

“Disappointed? Why would I be?” she asks surprisingly. Her forehead curls.

“Your only son is … this. And I can’t give you any apo.” My voice softens, embarrassed with what I just said. My aunts’ faces suddenly flash in my mind, whispering the embarrassment that I am.

“Trixie. She’s my apo.”

Mama holds my hands and hugs me.

“And I don’t care what they say,” she assures me. 

“As long as you’re happy. Are you?”

“Yes. Yes, I am.”

Never thought the day would finally come for me to know how it feels to breathe freely. I hug Mama tightly.

“Well, then, that’s all I need to know.”

She kisses me on my cheek.

I follow her to the kitchen where she asks me to help her prepare our dinner while Trixie patiently waits in her cage.

December night’s cool breeze creeps in the house, but I could only taste the sweetness of Mama’s newly cooked spaghetti filling my stomach and my heart full and warm.


Gilford is a graduate of the BA English (Creative Writing) program of UP Mindanao. He is currently teaching creative writing and literature courses to high school students in a Montessori school in Quezon City. While doing so, he’s also studying his master’s degree in history at UP Diliman.

 

Padayon Uyamot

Poetry by | September 18, 2022

Pagkahuman sa pandemya balik nasad ang skwela, 
Mga ginikanan nagkaproblema na kung asa sila mangita og kwarta,
Hahay di jud lalim ning pobre ta makahuna huna nalang tag undang og skwela.
Naa ko diri run sa ilalom sa punuan,
Nag huna-huna sa pagtulun-an nga gihatag sa akong ginikanan. 
Sigeg hinuktok mura najud og katok, 
Kulang nalang kitkiton ko og lamok. 
Dise-otso nako katuig nagpuyo diri sa kalibutan, 
Og ang akong namatikdan di jud diay lalim og wa kay natun-an. 
Daghan parehas sa akoa usa ra ka pobreng uyamot, 
Pero naningkamot arun makab-ot ang among gusto maabot. 
Daghan nakog nasuwayan mga panghinaway sa akong mga katawhan, 
Nga di lagi daw ko makahuman kay di daw ko suportahan sa akong ginikanan tungod pobre ra among angkan. 
Sakit huna-hunaon pero ipaagi nalang sa pagpahiyom, 
Ning mga storyang dili jud makatabang sa imong kaugalingon. 
Kapoy pero padayun, pakpakan rako ninyu puhon. 


Hailing from Lupon Davao Oriental, Angela Creman Watts is second year college student taking up Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Davao Oriental State University – San Isidro Extension Campus.

Ang Bugtot

Fiction by | September 11, 2022

1984

Pauwi na ang magkapatid na Jenilyn at Baloy mula sa kanilang pinapasukang mababang paaralan sa Mudon sa South Sepaka sa bayan ng Sultan Kudarat. Si Jenilyn ay walong taong gulang samantalang si Baloy ay sampung taong gulang. Nakahiligan ng magkapatid na sabay umalis ng bahay nang alas singko ng madaling araw kasama ng kanilang tatay. Ngunit noong araw ay dalawa silang nagtungo sa paaralan. Binabagtas ang malayo at bako-bakong daan patungo sa destinasyon. Madadaanan pa nila ang malapad na ilog at ang dalawang daanan – ang daang papunta sa kanila pauwi at ang daan patungo sa tirahan ng sinasabing bugtot.

Sinasabi ng mga matatanda at mga nakaaalam ng kuwento ng bugtot, ito ay isang matandang babaeng kuba noon na mapangahas na tumira sa kalasangan doon malapit sa nagtataasang mga damong kogon at kawayanan, sa kabilang lupa ng ilog at hindi kailanman natagpuan ang tiyak na tinatahanan nito maliban sa malaking kamalig na abot- tanaw kahit pa’y ito’y may kalayuan. Ayon pa sa karamihan, kadalasang nakayuko itong lumalakad at may itim na delargo, palaging may hawak na pinuti o maliit na kutsilyo o di kaya karit, na paningit ng mga prutas kapag hindi maabot. May dala din itong sako na pinaghihinalaang dito inilalagay ang mga bagay na kaniyang nakukuha gamit ang pinuti o ang karit. At kung ano pa ang mas nakakakabang katangian ng matanda ay di umano’y nananampot ito ng mga mapangahas na tumungo sa lugar, sa mismong daanan mula sa punong daan.

Subalit may mga nagsasabing, ito ay panakot lamang sa mga batang pumupunta sa lasang o sa masukal na gubat upang magliwaliw o di kaya ay kumuha ng mga prutas at gulay.

Alas tres y medya nang sila’y lumisan sa paaralan. Maulan ang hapong yaon at walang dalang payong ang dalawa. Pinagtiyagaan nilang gawing panangga ang kanilang kustal na nilalagyan ng kanilang gamit sa paaralan. Nagmamadali ang magkapatid paramakauwi nang maaga sa kanilang bahay.

“Neng, ‘di bala dire daw padulong tung balay ka bugtot nga gabitbit-bitbit sang karit kag sako,” pag-uusisa ni Jenelyn sa kaniyang ate.

“Ambot gani ah. Tuod daw to siya haw? Daw himu-himu lang man ‘to nga istorya-istorya nanday, Tatay kag Nanay! Pati ka da…” pagtugon ni Baloy kay Jenilyn. “Kapila dun ta ja ka panaw, kag waay man nagatuhaw nga bugtot nga nagadala sang karit…” pagdagdag ni Baloy.

Sa isipan nilang dalawa ay magkahalong panginginig ng katawan at pagkatakot. Malamig ang bawat pagpatak ng ulan sa katawan ng magkapatid; samantalang sa bawat paghakbang ay singtaas ng mga halamang kogon ang nananalaytay na kaba sa kanila.

“Jing, dasiga ang paglakat … para kauli ta dayon,” hikayat ni Baloy sa kaniyang kapatid. Bakas sa bawat tikang nila ang kanilang paglasak sa maputik na daan.

Patuloy sa paglalakad ang magkapatid. Kahit pa nasambit ni Baloy ang kaniyang pagtaliwas sa kuwento-kuwento at pagtatanong ni Jenilyn tungkol sa pag-iiral ng bugtot ay kakikitaan pa rin ito ng pagkatakot. Nadaraanan na nila ang lugar patungong kalasangan. Nababanaag na nila ang malaking puno ng mangga na abot sa kabilang bahagi ng ilog ang mga sanga nito. Samantalang tila hihiga naman ang mga kogon. Mas dumagdag ang pangamba ng dalawang magkapatid nang kumulog ang langit.

“Neng, hindi man bala tuod ang storya nanday tatay kag nanay ‘di ba kag katig-a gid sang hawid mo sa akon?” batyag ni Jenilyn dahil sa mahigpit na hawid ni Baloy sa kaniyang kamay habang patuloy sa paglakad sa mga sandaling yaon.

“Hindi ko bala sagad sang ka pamangkot, kag magahod… batian mo man ang huni ka agagangis nga ina? Dakpun ka gid sanâ karon kay damu ka it ginawakal,” pagtakot ni Baloy sa kaniya.

Tatlong hakbang bawat segundo. Basang-basa na ng mag-ate ngunit padayon sila sa pag matulin na paglalakad.

Isang nakaririmdim na palahaw ang nangibabaw mula sa pinanggalingan. Hindi na nakayanang lumingon ng dalawa. Hindi rin nila alam kung sino ang gumawa ng nakakikilabot na sigaw na yaon. Nagtriple ang hakbang ng dalawang bata. Hawak-hawak sa kamay nang mahigpit ni Baloy ang kaniyang kapatid.

Sa pagmamadali at pagkatakot ay napadiretso sila sa ibang daanan. Hindi na nag-aatubili nang bumalik ang dalawa baka sila’y dakpin o hindi kaya ay habulin hanggang sa makuha sila nito. Maririnig pa rin ang alunig ng sigaw ng nakatatakot na tinig na yaon. Sa halip, dumaan ang dalawa sa ilog na sa panahong yaon unti-unti na ring tumataas ang ilog na napalilibutan rin ng mga halamang kogon. Wala nang ingay ngunit nababanaag pa rin ang kamalig ng hinihinalaang tahanan ng matandang bugtot…

Mag-aalas sais na. Bahagyang tumahan ang ulan at naging maruming asul na ang kalangitan nang makarating ang dalawa sa kanilang tahanan. Nagtatakang nag- aalala ang kanilang Tatay Bo-ok at Nanay Nene sa kanilang sinapit at ganoon ang pagtambad nila sa pintuan.

“Susmaryosep, Dios ko! Naano kamo duha? Ha, Neneng kag Jing-jing. Ngaa nagkarabasa tinyo duha? Way niyo ja gidara ya kapote? Aysus!…” pag-aalangang mga tanong ng Nanay Nene sa kanila. Nagpaliwanag ang dalawa ng kanilang karanasan at pagkatapos ay nagsipaghanda na para sa hapunan.

Mainit-init pa ang inihandang kaldo ng tatay Bu-ok sa kanila. Ito ang inihahanda ng tatay nila sa tuwing malamig at maulan ang panahon.

Magpapatak na ang alas siyete. Tanging ang kinki lamang ang nagpapailaw sa buong paligid ng tanan ng pamilya. Naghahanda na sila para makinig ng kuwentong kababalaghan at katatakutan sa radyo. “Malamig nga kagab-ihon sa inyo mga abyan! Subong ng gab-i ipadayon naton ng isturya nga may tigulo nga ‘Tiniente Gimo’…”

 

2021

Mag-aalas diyes na ng gabi. Tatlong dekada na at pitong taon na ang nakaliligad ng pangyayaring yaon at sariwa pa sa alaala ang mga nangyari. Gising pa ang lahat at nagkakasiyahan sa labas. Habang ako sa loob ay mag-iisip kung paano kapag nakuha sila Jenilyn at Baloy nang maulang hapong yaon, at dinala sa kamalig at doon pagpiyestahan ng bugtot at gamit ang kaniyang matalim na pinuti ay nilasog-lasog na ang kanilang katawan at ginawang hapunan. Pero totoo nga bang bugtot ang sumigaw? At ang kamalig? Marahil, konsepto lamang ang bugtot na ito. Hindi natin alam.

At marahil, wala ako ngayon. Wala ang maikling kuwentong ito; walang isusulat na kuwentong ganito.

Ang pag-iiral ng bugtot sa paniniwala ng taga-Mudon ay talamak at naituring na suliranin sa bawat pumuluyo ng bayan sa mga panahong ito at umiiral sa isipan ng mga tao lalong-lalo na sa pamilya ng dalawang magkapatid. Totoo man o hindi ang kuwento ng bugtot, wala nang higit na mas nakahihindik pa sa personal na karanasang ito ni Jenilyn, ang aking ina.

***

Si Ralph G. Bansawan ay estudyante mula sa Notre Dame of Marbel University at nasa ikaapat na taon. Siya ay ipinanganak sa lungsod ng Koronadal.