Sapay Koma

Nonfiction by | September 14, 2008

This won 3rd prize, Essay in English, Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature 2008

“I looked at Maria and she was lovely. She was tall…and in the darkened hall the fragrance of her was like a morning when papayas are in bloom.”
–Manuel Arguilla

On our first Valentine as a couple, he gave me a bowl of white nondescript flowers. They had a distinctly sweet but faint scent. I had never been a fan of Valentine’s Day nor of love like a red, red rose; but that day, I became a believer. He told me they were papaya blossoms from his mother’s garden. At that moment, I knew I would one day marry him. We had started dating only three months ago, but I knew I would be Maria to his Leon. Why, he even had a younger brother the same age as Baldo! And even though they didn’t live in Nagrebcan nor owned a carabao, the town of Itogon, Benguet was remote enough for me. I have always enjoyed teaching the Arguilla story for its subversive take on the role that one’s family plays in a marriage; but having been born and raised in Pasay City, I had no idea what papaya blossoms smelled like. I imagined that my new boyfriend had read the story in his Philippine literature class and meant for me to recognize his gift as an allusion. In fact, I imagined we would defy societal norms and prove that love conquers all. Instead of a “theme song,” our relationship had a story to live up to. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

In the story, Leon brings his city-girl wife, Maria, home to meet his parents for the first time. His surly father orchestrates several tests of Maria’s suitability through Leon’s younger brother Baldo, who is quickly won over by her papaya blossom scent.

The first time I met his parents was on the wedding day of his eldest brother. By then, we had been seeing each other discreetly for seven months, somehow knowing that no one would approve of our relationship. In the midst of the beating of gongs and best wishes, his Kankanaey father only wanted to know two things about me: where I was from and what language I spoke. I gave the wrong answer on both points. I was a Manileña and I couldn’t speak Ilocano yet, having only recently moved to Baguio City to rebuild my life after becoming disillusioned with the institution that had once nurtured my desire to excel. But no love lost, I was only their son’s “gayyem” (friend), after all. It didn’t help that I was wearing a leopard print spaghetti-strapped dress, which exposed the tattoo on my back. I reasoned that the Cordillera culture has a long tradition of body art; so they should appreciate the significance of mine. None of us knew at that time that I was already carrying a half-Igorot child in my womb (which, I imagined, somehow made me an acceptable quarter-Igorot for the nonce).

Against better judgment, we decided to get married. We were under the influence of hormones, of pregnancy, of the Catholic church, of Manuel Arguilla. We would have gotten a quickie secret wedding if he were old enough, or I, wais enough; but by law we needed his parents’ consent. Which they refused to give. For perfectly good reasons.

They could have said, “You shouldn’t marry because he is too young” (and you are ten years older). Or “You shouldn’t marry because he is still studying” (and you were even his teacher). Or “You shouldn’t marry because he has a calling” (and you are snatching him from God).

But instead his mother said, “We can’t give you permission because his brother had just gotten married. In the theology of the Cordilleras, if siblings marry within the same year, one of the marriages will fail. The community will blame us if we allow you to marry.”

So I called my mother, who promptly came to my rescue, writing them a demand letter based on a fallacy: “If your child were the woman in this situation, you would rush to marry them!” I’m sure she was so eager to get me married off because she knew it was a fluke.

What was most ridiculous (though I refused to see it at that time), was that I was a self-proclaimed lesbian feminist. Despite all the tragic relationships I had had with women, I still believed that it was worth fighting for the right of a woman to love another woman. What business did I have getting married to a very young man? And for all the wrong reasons. Must have been oxytocin overdose sponsored by the baby in my womb. Or a planetary alignment exerting mysterious forces on my consciousness. Or, gasp—Love!

Whatever it was, it came to pass. My mother didn’t have to bring my grandfather’s rifle. But I had to do it all on my own: filing the license, finding the Judge, buying the rings, reserving a restaurant, paying for everything. It was a good thing his parents didn’t allow us to tell anybody about the marriage – that way I didn’t have to invite anyone — which lessened my expenses. I had to understand that they had spent all their savings for his brother’s recent wedding, where they had butchered eight pigs for a traditional Igorot wedding feast. And after all, lest we forget, we were getting married against their will. But hey, there they were, on hand to sign the marriage certificate in the sala of the Honorable Judge Fernando Cabato of La Trinidad, Benguet.

The ceremony itself was quick – but peppered with omens. First, when the court clerk asked for my mother-in-law’s name, I told her “Constancia” – because I figured that was where her nickname “Connie” came from. When I asked my nervous groom, he agreed. When the Judge confirmed the information, “Constancia” objected because her name is actually “Conchita.” Judge Cabato made the correction and lectured us about how important it is not to make errors in a legal document. Then, when it came to my father-in-law’s name, the Judge refused to believe that “Johnny” was his real name.

When he asked for the rings, my groom gave him the little box, but when the Judge opened it, it was empty. The elderly honorable Judge sat down and asked, “Is this a prank?” It turned out that the rings had slipped out of the box and were floating in my groom’s pants’ pocket.

When it was time for the wedding kiss, the Judge “got even” with us. He pronounced us husband and wife and then said, “No more kissing, it’s obvious there’s a deposit in there!” Then he laughed hearty congratulations. I wonder now how many times he has regaled a party crowd with our story.

At the reception in a Chinese restaurant, we occupied only one round table, with only ten guests. The pancit canton was very good. We didn’t get any gifts, except for a framed copy of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind… love does not keep a record of wrongs…” It wasn’t the wedding of my dreams, but the whole event cost me only Php 2,500. It was as do-it-yourself as DIY could get. That didn’t include the cost of the wedding rings, for which I had to sacrifice some of my old gold jewelry. The irony of it escaped me at the time; but for a modern woman on a budget, there was no room for finesse.

Thus we began our married life: full of contention, confusion, and concealment.

We couldn’t live together immediately; nor was I allowed to be seen in their little neighborhood, where everyone knew everyone. A very pregnant stranger ambling up and down the steep Upper Mangga Road would have been a conspicuous mystery. I continued to live alone in my apartment, with my husband staying weekends, and I pretended in school that my husband is from Manila. I’m not sure anyone actually believed the drama, but I was bathing in first-baby-love, so I couldn’t care less.

My other Igorot friends assured me that when the baby is born, my in-laws would finally accept me as the mother of their grandchild. But as I said, I couldn’t care less. I was a Manila girl – I truly believed that our marriage would succeed even without his parents’ approval of me. I was used to flouting norms and not needing anyone. And for his part, my husband argued existentially that we should live by the integrity of our own little family. You see, he was a Philosophy major under the tutelage of two young Jesuit-educated instructors, who had come to the mountains from Manila to indulge their fantasies about love and teaching (in that order). We, the migrant teachers, smiled at each other in the College of Human Sciences silently acknowledging each other’s foolishness; ignoring the fact that most of the other “native” faculty members looked askance at the three of us.

When our daughter was born, we decided it was time to move into the family home. In the innocent presence of the new half-Igorot baby, all would be forgiven. It seemed the most practical thing to do. But I soon realized how naïve we were. We didn’t take into account all the new wrongs that could be committed while sharing one household.

Before I got married, I had a dog – a black mongrel I had named “Sapay Koma,” which is Ilocano for “sana.” It is both a wish and a prayer – difficult to translate into English, unless in context. Koma was my companion throughout the two years I had lived in my dank, quirky apartment – the mute witness to the drama and dilemma preceding my decision to marry. We took him along with us in our move, of course. But the five other dogs in the new household didn’t like him all that much and they all raised such a nonstop racket, none of the humans could sleep, particularly the newborn baby.

The neighbors offered to buy him for Php 500. Igorots like black dogs because the meat is tastier. I was aghast. He was my dog, my loyal friend. If anyone was going to eat him, it should be family. So my husband invited his friends over to put Koma out of his misery.

I locked myself in our little bedroom with the baby, while they did it. But despite the closed windows, I could still smell the burning hair and later, the meat cooking. The putrid scent seemed to stick to my nose for days after, accusing me of betrayal. I wept for Koma and for all that was dying in the fire – all the wishes that had no place in my new life. I decided that this was the price for what Filipinos like to call “paglagay sa tahimik.”

It took two hours for the meat to be tender enough to eat and when we all sat down to dinner, I was glad they didn’t expect me to partake of the canine feast. Yet I did. I took one mouthful, which I swallowed quickly without chewing, so I wouldn’t have to relish the flavors. I may have had the stomach for it, but I didn’t have the heart. I only wanted to show them that I respected their culture, even though in fact, I would never belong. Also, I was hoping that this way, Koma would forgive me for having failed him, for offering him as a sacrifice at the altar of my marriage. This way, we could be truly together.

For weeks after, every time I overheard my husband reply “Aw, aw” to his father, I would shiver at the prospect that we would have dog for dinner again. They had five other dogs, after all. Luckily, it turned out that “aw” only means “yes” in their language, Kankanaey. Besides, they only butcher dogs on very special occasions. Ordinarily, there was always the savory chicken soup dish, Pinikpikan, which features a similar charred skin aroma and taste. I was quite relieved to learn that his father did not require beating the chicken to death with a stick before cooking, as is customary in the Igorot culture.

To this day, I have not been able to care for another dog. I do, however, have another child. By the same man. Accidentally. It happened on Father’s Day, when we thought having sex was a nice distraction from the confusion that arose from our growing discontent with the marriage. When we found out about the pregnancy, we agreed, albeit reluctantly, that it was Divine Intervention – a sign that we should keep trying to save the marriage.

It was not just the food that was strange. I couldn’t understand why everyday, some relatives would come over and expect to be fed. I had not been raised in an extended family, and even within our nuclear family, we pretty much kept to ourselves. In my mother’s house, we were trained to share through “one for you, one for me, then stay out of my bag of goodies.” You can imagine how I felt the day they served my Gardenia whole wheat bread to the “relatives,” who promptly wiped it out, because my peanut butter was delicious.

Not that I was being selfish. Aside from the fact that I didn’t have any bread for breakfast the next day and the house being a ten-minute hike uphill plus ten kilometers to downtown Baguio City, I fumed about not even being introduced to these relatives as the wife of their son. They would introduce my daughter and her yaya, but I remained a “phantom of delight” flitting about the house.

When I confronted my husband about the bread, he explained that in the Igorot culture, everything belongs to the community. So I took a permanent marker and wrote my name on my next loaf of bread. It was a Saussurean signifier of sorts – and it was unforgivable.

My father-in-law was a man of few words. In fact, my daughter was already two years old when he decided it was time to acknowledge my existence and say something to me. In the past, he would use an intermediary (usually my husband) if he wanted to get information from me. It wasn’t too difficult because by this time we had already moved to Manila and were living in my mother’s house – which was another disaster and another story. It was Christmas Eve and we were spending the holidays in Baguio City. He was watching a replay of a boxing match and I was playing with my daughter in the living room. He asked, in Ilocano, “Do you have a VCD player at home?” I was so shocked I couldn’t reply immediately. He repeated the question in Tagalog. It turned out he was giving us the VCD player he had won in a barangay raffle. That night, as the entire family sang their traditional “Merry Christmas To You” to the happy birthday tune, I felt I was finally getting a fair chance to prove that I was worthy of being in their cozy family.

In our six years together, I can think of more instances in which our separate worlds collided and caused aftershocks in my marriage. But none of it rivaled what I thought was the worst affront to me. My mother-in-law is Cancerian, like me, so her house is a pictorial gallery of her children and their achievements. She had a wall with enlarged and framed wedding photos of her children. Through the years, her exhibit grew, and expectedly, I and my husband didn’t have a photo on this wall. I figured it was because we had not had a church wedding. In fact, when we told them I was pregnant with our second child, they requested that we hold a church wedding already. They even offered to share the expense. But I preferred to save my money for the birth of the baby. However, given my theater background, I once tried to convince my husband to just rent a gown and tuxedo and then have our “wedding” photo taken so we’d finally get on “The Wedding Wall.” But he has always been the more sensible half of our couple.

One day, though, a new picture was added to the wall. It was a studio photo of his eldest sister, her American husband, and their baby boy. It wasn’t “The Wedding Wall” anymore; it was now the “Our Children and their Acceptable Spouses” wall. It was their version of the Saussurean signifier. The message was loud and clear – to me and to other people who came to visit.

I wonder now why it so mattered to me to be on that wall. I guess I felt that after all those years, we had been punished enough for defying the culture. Maybe I actually believed in 1 Corinthians 13. Or perhaps I also needed to be reassured that I was indeed happily married.

I confronted my husband about it and demanded that he finally stand up for me and our family. And he did – he wrote his parents a letter that made his mother cry and beat her breast. We each tried to explain our sides, finally coming to terms with the bitter past. They told me that they are simple folk and didn’t mean to ostracize me; that when they agreed to the marriage, they accepted me as part of the family, no matter what. I believed them. I told them I was never going to be the woman they had probably wanted for their son; but that I am a perfectly good woman, most of the time. We tried to make amends. Our family picture was up on the wall within three days. Our kids were quite pleased.

But it was too late. By then, my husband and I had been grappling with our own issues for the past five years. He had gotten tired of my transgressions and sought solace with his friends. After coming home late from another “Happy Hour” with them, I screamed at him, “What happy hour? Nobody is allowed to be happy in this house!” It was then we both finally realized that we had to face the truth about our marriage. By the time his parents were willing to start over in our journey as a family, we had given up on ours.

Most couples find breaking up hard to do. It was particularly hard for us because we had to convince his parents that it was not their fault. On the other hand, I had to deal with the fact that maybe my marriage did fail because of the “curse” of the superstition “sukob sa taon” – that maybe we were wrong to insist on our choice. Yet on good days, I am pretty sure it was a perfectly “no fault divorce,” if there ever was one.

“Kapag minamalas ka sa isang lugar, itawid mo ng dagat” goes the Filipino proverb. Perhaps the salt in the sea would prevent the bad luck from following you. So today I live with my two Igorot children in Davao City – fondly called “the promised land.” Everyone is astounded when they learn that I had moved even though I knew only one person here – who didn’t even promise me anything. I just wanted a chance to start over. When we moved into this house, it had a small nipa hut in the backyard. The kids enjoyed staying there during the sweltering hot Davao afternoons, especially when their Daddy called them on the phone. But it was nearly falling apart and was host to a colony of termites that had actually begun to invade the house as well.

My generous landlady soon decided it was time to tear down the structure. When I got home one day, it was gone. All that was left was a dry and empty space in the yard; yet everything looked brighter too. We missed the “payag;” but soon the grass crept into the emptiness and we began to enjoy playing Frisbee in the space that opened up. It was a Derridean denouement of sorts.

Last year, we spent our first Christmas without any family obligations. It was liberating not to have to buy any gifts for nephews, cousins, in-laws. All the shopping I did was for my children. I was determined to establish my own Christmas tradition with them. I wanted to show them we were happy. I wanted them to grow up never having to sing “Merry Christmas To You” ever again. I decided to cook paella for noche buena as if my life depended on it. I thought it was simply a matter of dumping all the ingredients in the pan and letting it cook – like the aftermath of a failed marriage. The recipe was so difficult I ended up crying hysterically, asking myself over and over, “what have I done?” My kids embraced me and said, “Nanay, stop crying na.” But I couldn’t. It seemed as if it was the first time I had let myself cry over what I had lost. I noticed though, that the kids did not cry. Embarrassed with myself, I picked myself up from the river of snot that was my bed and finished what I had set out to do – as I always have. It even looked and tasted like paella, despite the burnt bottom. But next year we’ll just order take-out from Sr. Pedro (Lechon Manok).

That night, my mother-in-law sent me a text message saying they are always praying for us to get back together, especially for the children’s sake. I do not know how to comfort her, except to keep saying that we had all done the best we could at the time; that we are always trying to do the right thing; that despite what happened, or perhaps because of it, we will always be a family. Of a kind. We are, after all, inextricably linked by a timeless story and “sapay koma.”
Each of us in this story nurtures a secret wish to have done things differently – to have been kinder, more understanding of each other’s quirks and shortcomings. But it takes less energy to wish it forward. Sapay koma naimbag ti biag yo dita — to hope that your life there is good.

78 thoughts on “Sapay Koma”

  1. I’m an Igorot myself and I read this wonderful story on a beautiful Saturday morning. Wow! You made me tear up and burst out laughing all in one seating. (The “AW”-yes part was particularly funny as i-Benguets are known for that).

    I may even write a blog entry on this story. SAPAY KOMA, that things will end out well for you and your little Igorot children. My wife and I married in the same year as an older sister. We’ve been married for 10 years already. There’s no truth to that curse.

    Have a good day, and GOD bless your family.

    blog of the SaGaDa-iGoRoT

  2. like Kamulo,i’m an igorot, born and raised in the cordilleras.i find it surprising that your mother-in-law likes to post photos on the wall as opposed to what we’re used doesn’t put our diplomas or photos up there as a decor.she’s from sagada too. 🙂

    great story!i feel bad for koma,i’m still hoping (sapay koma) for that time to come when dogs would only be treated as pets and not for consumption.:)

  3. wow… i really love the story… nakakatawa at nakakaiyak talaga… i really admire the author of this piece… if only im the guy, i ca say that im the luckiest man in the world to have JHOANNA LYNN in my life… i just do HOPE that someday i will be part of her life and prove that age does not matter at all for me.

    only God knows what my life will be in the future but i still believe that destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice, so it is still up to me if i make the choice or not.

    Congratulations for making this piece a very inspiring one and for being a strong woman who face the world even in its darkest days.

    To the author… always remember that God will always be with you no matter what happens and also dont forget that im here to support you in all your endeavors…

    smile always… God loves you and so do I… 🙂

  4. wow… i really love the story… nakakatawa at nakakaiyak talaga… i really admire the author of this piece… if only im the guy, i can say that im the luckiest man in the world to have JHOANNA LYNN in my life… i just do HOPE that someday i will be part of her life and prove that age does not matter at all for me.

    only God knows what my life will be in the future but i still believe that destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice, so it is still up to me if i make the choice or not.

    Congratulations for making this piece a very inspiring one and for being a strong woman who face the world even in its darkest days.

    To the author… always remember that God will always be with you no matter what happens and also dont forget that im here to support you in all your endeavors…

    smile always… God loves you and so do I… 🙂

  5. Stumbled on this blog thru Dominique’s links… it was a lovely, poignant , endearing , amusing, and utterly Filipino read! Well done….

  6. a deep sigh would say it all^^
    Maam Joy Cruz’s piece is a must-read one. sometimes, (most of the time, rather) we could only understand our culture’s context via the point of view of an outsider-looking-inside individual.
    things will turn out well, maam. sapay koma that the love and fellowship u shared with us would atleast make such wound be healed^^

    there. i truly felt the piece’s tropes 🙂

  7. a deep sigh would say it all^^
    Maam Joy Cruz’s piece is a must-read one. sometimes, (most of the time, rather) we could only understand our culture’s context via the point of view of an outsider-looking-inside individual.
    things will turn out well, maam. sapay koma that the love and fellowship u shared with us would atleast make such wound heal^^

    there. i truly felt the piece’s tropes

  8. To the Author, you have admirable courage to break what is perhaps an unspoken and unwritten stigma in the Igorot society.

    This piece has definitely brought another perspective, and dare i say, another flavor to the Igorot culture.

    Anyway, It is through, perhaps, the worse that we become better…

  9. I’ve noticed that many of us find it hard to admit that we’re in love. To say that you’re plunging into a certain business because of Love is rather a sappy confession. The speaker knows that, and I’m raising my thumbs for her for having the guts to dish out what she thinks is the truth. In addition, I winced as I read the killing of the cur. Why, it was plain cruel. They had just gone too far.
    I couldn’t stop reading this piece. It’s inspiring and, of course, well-written. We women can certainly stand life’s tempests!

  10. ur such a brave woman maam!Im your student and now, I strongly believe that we, the men, are always the problem. I hope that you’ve moved on completely so that you could enjoy your life here in Davao! You’re such a good and inspirational teacher. Thankyou! I wanna cry, huhuhuhu..

  11. Such a moving piece.
    No wonder it won the Palanca.

    It inspired me to write my story, too.

    Ma’am Jho, you are one strong woman! Mabuhay ka!

  12. What m0re can I say? nice ‘adventure’ mam j0y..
    wel, for me, the greatest right of a w0man is to be a m0ther…and you have already claimed that right..
    best wishes to you and y0ur children..

  13. a very moving, rousing, stirring piece…
    [clap, clap, clap]

    whatever hardships you may be experiencing
    or had experienced in the past were all part
    of God’s huge plan for you.

    Stay strong and be an inspiration to everyone.
    God bless you.:]

  14. henyo! ay henya d ay!

    feminist pa naman ka mam jhoy. hehehe…(n_n)

  15. I’m so touched. 🙂

    I’m currently in Ma’am Jhoanna’s class in AH 4 and we just finished discussing “How my Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” where I deeply understood and appreciated it than in high school [probably because Ma’am Jhoanna is so entertaining].

    I really had a lot of anticipation into reading this. My classmate who already read this gave me an overview which made me more excited. During and after reading this, my heart ached. :((

    This is indeed a sad story on marriage but I am proud of Ma’am Jhoanna that she stays courageous, cheerful, and positive today after all she went through.

    Kudos, Ma’am Jhoanna!

  16. oohh.. how sad..!
    but this story really make me realize that not all the things we think is right.. would be right after all.. not all the fairy tales that we dreamed of will have it’s own “..and they live happily ever after..”( like most of the fairy tales end up). sometimes it should end up like..”,. and they live separately, happily ever after..” (ahehe.. ano yun.?)
    ,. go ma’am Jhoanna! you can go on with your life not on your own but together with your 2 beautiful children..

  17. This essay deserves the Palanca, indeed. Joy, I have missed you. Your story made me cry. I will visit you in Davao soon. Might be the end of September. We have a lot of catching up to do!

  18. Very beautiful! The whole thing makes me feel sublime.. Poetic language. It makes me laugh and even cry. I could even read this thing again and again.^_^

  19. hi maam jhoanna! i am so blessed to have you as a teacher! galing2! wow and what an inspiring story!!!! and by d way i find ur tatoos cooL! haha GOD BLESS ALWAYS maam!

  20. Would you, will you allow this reader, very far away from your shores, to be moved ?
    as ever Jhoanna

  21. you have never failed to amaze me, maam.
    this is bittersweet and beautiful.
    it makes me proud to have been your student even for a short time.

    life happens but we keep moving.

  22. I can’t believe this didn’t get first place! If I judged the CPMA, anything with a loyal dog dying would bag first place…

  23. Im so touch,and feel sad about your love story,by the way we were just neighbors,and i didnt expect that this things had happen between you and your husband,I know the pain you are suffering now.becuase even,me i dont know what assurance would i able to get,becuase until now we were not yet married and yet we have three children,I know the pain of not being accepted,in the society and it hurts,now IM away with my family,the consequence of not finishing my studies before,I just hopeyou would soon write my story,wishing sapay koma,i would have a happy ending,but nobody knows.

  24. I did never expect your story to end up this way,becuase we never heard any rumours against you and your husband, not until i have read your articles,i felt sad about what had happen,i am actually a neighbor in that place,and sometimes we are curious,that we no longer see you in our place.but never the less sapay koma that your husband will realized someday how much you have sacrificed for him.

  25. I’m an igorot and I felt so sorry for that tradition, and I’m so sad about the story (of the author), I hope someday,you’ll find forgiveness to your heart, and by the way our teacher in Litt. call the author in the nick name “goddess Joy” and she told us that they are friends so as we disccus this story in the class she answer some of our questions about the story and we find it very, very interesting and at the same time so sad..^^

  26. I have been reading this for the nth time and still, my heart leaps a bit every time I read it. I hope that the people in this story have already forgiven each other.^_^

  27. reading the article touched me a first, i found it funny but then i realized that this was a true story of someone who needed appreciation for narrating her story straight-forward.

    I am a Kankanaey working and residing here in davao city, having been exposed to diffirent cultures, which sometimes can be considered strange, i understand how the writer felt. What was clear was that the marriage did not end because of “culture difference”.

    To the writer, I hope you will find true happiness for your children’s sake.

  28. Thank you so much for all your kind comments and concern. It’s always good to know that I am somehow connected with my readers, who are a family-of-a-kind. Yes, I am friends with my ex-husband. We are all making amends in our own ways.

  29. I was so intrigued with this story! We just recently read this in our literature class and I must say that it has been a favorite of mine this year. I currently study at SLU and this was the last story we discussed. My instructor was a former student of Ms. Cruz. It’s a very intriguing story. It made me laugh and sad at the same time (or was that just me going crazy..LOL). Although I didn’t get to see the typical happy ending, I could still find it in my heart to smile and be happy for Ms. Cruz and her children. I love her character so much! I love how strong and confident a woman she is. I think I just found a new idol…. Anyway, more power to you Ms. Cruz and Kudos on the story…. (Applauds)

  30. Mom!

    What can i say?!!Beautiful is an understatement 😀

    You can never put a great woman down. You deservethe Palanca and every blessing you have 😀

    You are one great woman..

    I am so proud to have been your thesis advisee:)

    Love yah

  31. Very ideal to for people who are simple but clever. just like the story it seem to be simple not that complicated but if you understand each line you will find its esscence….the meaning.
    There’s no way this piece can’t captured anyone’s heart. it’s full of passion and very substantial. it delivers the idea exactly without sacrificing the meaning of the sentence.
    well done.

  32. Isabel, who is your teacher? Please tell her I am grateful that she is teaching my essay. I’m glad to know that even though I have left Baguio, I am still there somehow. I’m honored that you like my “character”. I must say, if you like her, you should meet me!

  33. Ma’am, this story is disheartening it made me cry. I’m interested with the story when you moved to Manila with your mother, as well.

  34. No doubt that this won the Palanca. I find it very inspiring. Im sure that a lot will be inspired by this too, especially women. You are really great Ma’am Jhoanna!

  35. Dear Jhoanna, you will always be here with us in Baguio! Every time I even start to think of writing, my mind, to get going, requires a lapse of reminiscent dreaming of your many lessons – in and out of the classroom!
    I will never forget what an encouragement you always were. Remember your “I hate you!” comment? One of the best compliments my work has ever received.
    Just keep swimming!

  36. …why did i read “Sapay Koma” on a rainy Panagbenga?…got me smoking…here’s tapey from baguio…

    …”awan gayam ti sabali” (no one is different) said an Ilokano neighbor to my father…indeed, awan gayam ti sabali…

    …i so agree with the comment of ikatengan…

  37. i really really like the story of jhoanna lynn.. by the way sapay koma is my report in literature thats why i read this story and i dont know what i fell after i read the story..
    i am very proud of you jhoanna lyn…

  38. Finally, after a year of being under Prof. Jhoanna Cruz’s class, nabasa ko na ang Sapay Koma,

    Ma’am this is one of the best and most moving stories I’ve ever read. I really admire your courage and I have got to say this, you truly are a Goddess ma’am 🙂

    Not only are you beautiful, you are also an intelligent, strong-willed woman, and I really admire you for that.

    When you read one of your poems at Taboan ’11, I immediately bought one copy of the road map series. The poems are beautiful, I hope you can really find the time you want —- to write again, just write, write, and write 🙂

    I hope I can find my voice too, keep moving forward!

  39. i wish there will be a sapay koma part 2!

    because i strongly believe that this is based on the life of the author, Prof. Johoanna Lyn Cruz 😀

  40. Thank you for your generous praise and love! Hugs for all! My poetry chapbook, “Heartwood,” published by Tita Ayala in the Roadmap Series is like a sequel to “Sapay Koma.” Available in Baguio at Mt. Cloud Bookshop. In Davao, please come to the launching of “BEST OF DAGMAY” on May 28 at ADDU, 3 pm! Free hugs 🙂

  41. .can’t 4get that day when you entered our class ” wearing a leopard print spaghetti-strapped dress, which exposed the tattoo on your back” . you inspired me.

  42. after reading this, i shared it to my IGOROT students in my Philippine Lit class. My throat was aching as i read them the essay because i was trying not to cry.
    God bless you great woman.

  43. its funny when cultures clash, the ending is bittersweet

    To the writer,,, maybe it had to happen that way so that you could write like this….great, beautiful…..

  44. Certainly, it is nothing less than a masterpiece… I just found out about it in my LITT. CRIT. class under ma’am Assumpta… Being an Igorot myself and a dog lover at the same time adds to the flavor of the story while I was reading it… ” Sapay koma makabiruk kan to ti Happy Ending mo met!” Kudos!!!

  45. so unfortunate that I didn’t have the chance to be in your classes.I used to see you just around the corridors of the university. I am currently enrolled in the masters program of UC and I just read your essay this year when one of my classmates used it as her chosen piece for literary criticism. And now I chose it to work for its underlying literary philosophies.

  46. reading the essay made my eyes close to tears… i could not well-imagine that such lively and lovely professor possessed those kind of miserable experiences in life…seeing prof. jhoanna each time we have our class made me realized that life must really goes on no matter what…she is so optimistic that i idolize her for having that kind of attitude despite the loneliness she had during those years…
    i salute you professor JHOANNA CRUZ.

  47. Kenneth


    …its my first time to read an article like this, it is inspiring story to a couple and to their family but despite of the tragedy and events in your I do believe that GOD is watching us and reminding us the obligations and duties to perform in our daily lives….
    …in fact I was also a half-igorot boy who is studying in the University of Baguio taking up BSIT and have a boarding in the same location which the Tuding(exactly in Upper Mangga) was interested to share the story to my friends and to be pround to Miss. JHOANNA LYNN CRUZ…….♠

  48. sayang!!!!! i hope your husband will fight for you for this time,,, if i were him i will never let you go and i’ll fight for you till my last breath thats the true spirit of an igorot like me,,,,ay aped na upay cka pototan dadakat kataynan et we,,,

  49. This essay really deserves to win!

    I really love this write-up, Ma’am Jhoanna! I feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride–there were ups, downs, swirls. Now I have a concrete idea what creative nonfiction is all about.

    By the way, thanks for sharing your expertise to us! I am more than blessed that I have been a part of the said seminar. I hope that there will be a writing WORKSHOP next time. 🙂

    God bless!

  50. wow maam. congratulations !
    thank you for making a remarkable piece like this. it inspires me. 🙂

  51. manuel arguilla was my grandfather’s cousin, first cousin. thank you for loving lolo manuel’s piece 🙂 <3 just like you, he wrote his story and published it. but, you acknowledge that that was your own story. lolo manuel used LEON though he was HIM. LEON from maNUEL 🙂 anyway, i love your story 🙂 (our literature instructor asked us to read this story online. i'll thank my teacher for that. <3 )


  52. I cried and smiled when I read this, I came out form a relationship 4 and a half summers ago with the story line I am ten years older he younger, He was from Tadian Mt. Province…and I almost fell for another Igorot dude online from Bauko, Mt. Province..but held my horses. One thing I realized..ang hirap nilang mahalin..but you were strong Mam Johanna Lyn Cruz, baka pag ako I stayed in the marriage as if my life depended on it.

  53. I know where your coming from..having been int the same situation 4 and a half Summers ago, the Younger Man problem and rest was quite familiar except that I did not reach a Judge’s office or the altar…I fought for the Igorot ( mine was from Tadian, Mt. Province) dude as if my life depended on it…but their traditions got me all exhausted…I walked on egg shells wishing He was an Igorot Warrior and stand for our relationship. Mahirap silng mahalin under any circumstances, kung ang Babae ay hindi tanggap ng tribu at communidad sa dahilng nabanngit sa kathang ito.

  54. Dear Ayra, thank you so much for your sharing about the great writer! I feel so blessed to have reached you through this platform and through my essay, which is a homage-of-a-kind to Leon and Maria 🙂 I also have a story in my book, “Women Loving” inspired by Arguilla’s story! That’s how much I love his work!

  55. Dear Urduja, I’m sorry to hear about your pain. But just like your name suggests, I am certain that the warrior woman within you will not need an Igorot warrior to fight on her behalf. Every relationship, regardless of ethnicity, has its own struggles. It is often a matter of choosing what you are willing to fight for. Still, how lovely it must be to find peace.

  56. Got the grace to tell your story with integrity.

    Triumphant. Hope-driven. Cathartic. Redeeming. Quite an achievement in this world of myriad brokenness.

    Familiar with Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience,” and the concept of “organized innocence”? You’re on the track to OI… GBU

  57. Wow. As the writer navigates her way through the many pained, difficult episodes in a marriage, she manages to fill the narration with so much symbolism, in what may very well be a powerful socio-cultural commentary. A Saussurean epic indeed.

    In the end, whether it be the termite-infested nipa hut, or that oh-so-difficult paella, hope prevails eternal. It does take less energy to wish it forward.

  58. Wow, Prof. Jhoanna, such an intriguing piece! I’m sorry about your dog though… 🙁

  59. _The story was indeed inspiring. I am an igorot and I understand how it feels when not accepted in the society due to culture differences. .
    _this piece was given by our instructor for a reflection..

    _Godbless you ma’am!

  60. I choose Sapay Koma for my final paper in our class in Phil. Lit here in UM Digos and it is really nice piece, no doubt it should be included in the canon of Philippine Literature.

  61. Since I read about this short story, I keep on using this on my Phil Lit Class as their final reading since I really find it interesting and worthy to be read…May God keep on showering you His blessings and to your family…

  62. Thank you very much to all the teachers who are using this essay in their Philippine Literature classes. And all the students who are choosing to write papers about it. You have made one of my writerly dreams come true! My heart is full.

  63. Ay! thank you, i came across this story years ago,when mam anncris, my co-teacher gave me a copy when i was asking a copy of How my brother leon… we discussed this in my Phil. Lit class. Slamat at my technology so i was able to read again becoz i misplaced my copy. I admire you mam Jhoanna for being such a brave woman, I will present and discuss this again to my phil.lit senior class and i believed they will surely enjoy it.
    My 45 degrees salute mdam.

  64. I have to thank my teacher in 21st literature, if not for him i never get the chance to read this great piece. My teacher use you as an example ma’am Jhoanna and your piece because you have used new words.
    I decided to read your piece not just because it uses new words but because it is a real life story.
    Maam Jhoanna, I can tell that you are so kind and a shy type because you never tried with to argue with your in-laws despite your hurt feelings towards them.
    Thank you for sharing your life story.

    To you and your family,
    god bless.

    sapay kuma nu waday kabalinan na man reconcile kayo ladta.

  65. I came across this story while I was looking for a “Baguio literature” piece I could use in my 21st lit subject in the Senior High. I fell in love with it at first reading that I immediately reproduced it for my students. I’ve been using it for 3 years now and it never failed to illicit a very positive response from them especially that majority of my students are Igorots. Thanks to you Ms. Cruz, I now have a material which can easily capture the hearts of my learners here in Baguio.

  66. It is an inspiring story. It is good that you have kept your respect and composure towards your in-laws.

    The story is apparently more on personal differences rather than on cultural differences. In any case, you have presented fair and square your observation on culture in that particular niche here in the highlands.

    May you and your Igorot children continually have the blessings of a good life, teacher Jhoanna.

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