I left Nabunturan for a city

Poetry by | October 18, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

why I left.

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

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